The entrance to the Accabonac Apartments in East Hampton, where...

The entrance to the Accabonac Apartments in East Hampton, where a new federal lawsuit alleges housing law was violated when a teen was banned for about a year and a half from living with his emotional support dog. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A new federal lawsuit alleges an East Hampton agency violated federal housing law by refusing to let a teenager with “mental health and other medical conditions” live with his emotional support dog for about a year and a half before reversing its stance. 

The East Hampton Housing Authority repeatedly denied resident Kerry Morouney’s request for her son’s dog, a morkie named Lucky, to live in the Accabonac Apartments unit where the family has resided since April 2021, according to the complaint.

The agency, which has its own board of commissioners and isn't funded through town taxes, manages affordable housing developments.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found “reasonable cause existed to believe that illegal discriminatory housing practices had occurred,” according to the lawsuit. 

HUD referred the case to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which filed the litigation on May 9 on the family's behalf and later declined to comment. Morouney, 36, cited legal advice while declining to comment in an email.

The lawsuit names the housing authority, its executive director, Catherine Casey, and the property owner, Seymour Schutz LLC, as defendants. Attorney Suzanne Marie Messer, of Syracuse, who represents the defendants, and Casey didn't return requests for comment.

The litigation says in February 2021, Casey told Morouney only “bona fide service animals” were allowed in the apartment complex and an emotional support dog was considered a pet. It says the housing authority then reversed its stance in October 2022.

But in the months without Lucky, the young man, then 14 and 15, suffered “increased night terrors, panic attacks, insomnia, nauseousness, vomiting, and decreased appetite,” and missed “significant time” in school, according to the complaint.

It says the teenager has “major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, insomnia with night terrors, irritable bowel syndrome and eosinophilic esophagitis.”

The teenager's health improved once Lucky moved in again, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges the housing authority violated protections for people with disabilities under the federal Fair Housing Act by “refusing to make reasonable accommodations to their rules, policies, or services.” It says HUD issued guidance in 2020 stating that “assistance animals are not pets.”

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for out-of-pocket expenses and emotional distress.

Elizabeth Grossman, executive director of the Fair Housing Justice Center, a nonprofit focused on eliminating housing discrimination in the New York City region, said federal government officials can use this type of litigation “as an example to prevent similar actions by other housing providers.”

Residents in 25 units at Accabonac Apartments get rent assistance through the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, according to the housing authority. The program helps very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled afford housing.

The lawsuit says Morouney's family was living in Utah in early 2021 when she began transferring a housing choice voucher to the East Hampton Housing Authority to move into Accabonac Apartments. A housing authority employee noted in a February 2021 email to Morouney that emotional support dogs were prohibited, according to the complaint.

Morouney and her son had been living with Lucky since 2018. The dog, which was in training to be a service dog, helped comfort the boy during panic attacks, the lawsuit says. 

It adds that the mother submitted documentation from her son’s medical provider, citing his health history and the benefit of an emotional support dog. But without approval to bring the dog to the new apartment, the family left Lucky with a friend in Illinois before moving to East Hampton in 2021, according to the complaint.

It says Morouney requested a “reasonable accommodation to keep Lucky” that May after her son's health declined while living without Lucky, but the housing authority said having a dog “would jeopardize” their tenancy.

The mother filed a complaint with HUD in June 2021 before the department “attempted conciliation without success,” according to the lawsuit.

A new federal lawsuit alleges an East Hampton agency violated federal housing law by refusing to let a teenager with “mental health and other medical conditions” live with his emotional support dog for about a year and a half before reversing its stance. 

The East Hampton Housing Authority repeatedly denied resident Kerry Morouney’s request for her son’s dog, a morkie named Lucky, to live in the Accabonac Apartments unit where the family has resided since April 2021, according to the complaint.

The agency, which has its own board of commissioners and isn't funded through town taxes, manages affordable housing developments.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found “reasonable cause existed to believe that illegal discriminatory housing practices had occurred,” according to the lawsuit. 

HUD referred the case to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which filed the litigation on May 9 on the family's behalf and later declined to comment. Morouney, 36, cited legal advice while declining to comment in an email.

The lawsuit names the housing authority, its executive director, Catherine Casey, and the property owner, Seymour Schutz LLC, as defendants. Attorney Suzanne Marie Messer, of Syracuse, who represents the defendants, and Casey didn't return requests for comment.

The litigation says in February 2021, Casey told Morouney only “bona fide service animals” were allowed in the apartment complex and an emotional support dog was considered a pet. It says the housing authority then reversed its stance in October 2022.

But in the months without Lucky, the young man, then 14 and 15, suffered “increased night terrors, panic attacks, insomnia, nauseousness, vomiting, and decreased appetite,” and missed “significant time” in school, according to the complaint.

It says the teenager has “major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, insomnia with night terrors, irritable bowel syndrome and eosinophilic esophagitis.”

The teenager's health improved once Lucky moved in again, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges the housing authority violated the law by...

The lawsuit alleges the housing authority violated the law by not letting Lucky, an emotional support dog, live in an East Hampton apartment with a teenager who has "mental health and other medical conditions" for 19 months. Credit: Kerry Morouney

The lawsuit alleges the housing authority violated protections for people with disabilities under the federal Fair Housing Act by “refusing to make reasonable accommodations to their rules, policies, or services.” It says HUD issued guidance in 2020 stating that “assistance animals are not pets.”

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for out-of-pocket expenses and emotional distress.

Elizabeth Grossman, executive director of the Fair Housing Justice Center, a nonprofit focused on eliminating housing discrimination in the New York City region, said federal government officials can use this type of litigation “as an example to prevent similar actions by other housing providers.”

Residents in 25 units at Accabonac Apartments get rent assistance through the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, according to the housing authority. The program helps very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled afford housing.

The lawsuit says Morouney's family was living in Utah in early 2021 when she began transferring a housing choice voucher to the East Hampton Housing Authority to move into Accabonac Apartments. A housing authority employee noted in a February 2021 email to Morouney that emotional support dogs were prohibited, according to the complaint.

Morouney and her son had been living with Lucky since 2018. The dog, which was in training to be a service dog, helped comfort the boy during panic attacks, the lawsuit says. 

It adds that the mother submitted documentation from her son’s medical provider, citing his health history and the benefit of an emotional support dog. But without approval to bring the dog to the new apartment, the family left Lucky with a friend in Illinois before moving to East Hampton in 2021, according to the complaint.

It says Morouney requested a “reasonable accommodation to keep Lucky” that May after her son's health declined while living without Lucky, but the housing authority said having a dog “would jeopardize” their tenancy.

The mother filed a complaint with HUD in June 2021 before the department “attempted conciliation without success,” according to the lawsuit.

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