Who says a rescued wild animal doesn’t qualify as an emotional support pet? A condo association in Clearwater, Florida, for one.
WFLA News Channel 8 reports that Ryan Boylan is fighting to keep his exotic rescue pet, a female squirrel named Brutis, after the Island Walk Condominiums board filed a complaint to Boylan and the owner of the condo. A notice sent last month informed him he must give up the squirrel, an exotic animal forbidden by the board, or face eviction. Only cats and dogs are considered pets at Island Walk.
The property management first learned of the typically outdoor rodent’s status as Boylan’s pet when a local dog chased it up a tree in April. Boylan then notified the board over the summer that he considers Brutis an emotional support animal.
“She’s just like an inside cat. She just walks around and hides pecans and hazelnuts which are her two favorites,” Boylan, 40, told ABC Action News.
Boylan rescued the squirrel during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 when she was stuck under a car, and since then, he has grown attached to her. He was in a car accident in 2004, which he claims left him with anxiety, herniated discs in his back and PTSD, hence the need for a support pet. His doctor even wrote him a prescription for Brutis.
“Ever since then I mean, oh my God, I can’t imagine not being around her,” Boylan told News Channel 8.
The squirrel-loving man got in touch with the Office of Human Rights and claimed discrimination; the organization then sent a letter on his behalf to the condo board, citing the Fair Housing Act. This federal act supposedly protects a homeowner or tenant’s right to keep an emotional support pet.
“Due to this emotional disability, Ryan Boylan has certain limitations coping with what would otherwise be considered normal, but significant day to day situations,” according to the letter. “To help alleviate these challenges and to enhance his day to day functionality, I have prescribed Ryan to obtain emotional support animal(s). The presence of the animal(s) is necessary for the emotional/mental health of Ryan Boylan because its presence will mitigate the symptoms he is currently experiencing.”
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Despite these claims, the board’s stance remains firm: If Boylan doesn’t give up Brutis by the end of the month, he may be evicted.
When questioned by WFLA, former condo board member Sherry Arfa said she was on the fence.
“I’m sure it’s like any emotional support dog, people ask questions,” said Arfa. “It’s just like with any animal, you can have the nicest dog and they could bite somebody. It’s no guarantee … if it was a gerbil or something that your grandkid had hiding under the bed, I’m sure that would be fine, but a squirrel is a wild animal.”
Boylan’s case is pending. Brutis is signed up as a support pet through Register My Service Animal, LLC.