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2015-01-29

Army vet & service dog find refuge in SA

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

(Editor's note: A fund in the name of David Palasek has been established through Broadway Bank. Main telephone number is 800-531-6750. Palasek emphasized that any funds collected would be used to assist servicemen and women transition from active duty to civilian status.)

The Bandera community was shocked after a report surfaced that a disabled United States Army veteran and his service dog had been evicted from a rented mobile home just before Christmas.
Dillion Collier of KENS-TV in San Antonio broke the story on Jan 16. Since then, Collier's account has been republished in the Army Times, in newspapers throughout Texas and on animal advocacy websites.
David Palasek served in the United States Army and Army National Guard from 2005 to 2012 with tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While serving in Iraq in 2007, he suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as injuries to his neck, spine, knee and shoulder in a Humvee accident and a separate IED (improvised explosive device) attack. Palasek is now considered to be 90 percent disabled.
Enter Checkers
Two years ago "to help him get through the day," Palasek acquired Checkers as a service dog - registered through Service Dog Registration of America. In an interview on Thursday, Jan. 22, Palasek said he rescued the 4-year-old red heeler from the Animal Defense League in San Antonio, adding, "He supports me mentally, emotionally and physically."
On Oct. 1, 2014, Palasek signed a lease with Guilott Realty, Inc. to rent a mobile home at 167 Beaumont Street, Unit 5, located just outside the City of Bandera.
"I told them upfront that I had a service dog," Palasek said. "They didn't have any problem with that until I signed the lease." At that point, according to Palasek, things went downhill.
A law enforcement report from the Bandera County Sheriff's Office noted that his mobile home was broken into on Nov. 28. After the burglary, Palasek changed the locks without giving the leasing assistant, Shannon Reyes, advance notice. He also failed to give Reyes a new key.
Palasek asserts he took matters into his own hands only because the leasing company didn't respond to his requests for a new lock and keys.
Eviction notice
Things apparently escalated again when the property manager - attempting to inspect Palasek's home - could not gain entry. In an email dated Dec. 16, Reyes had notified Palasek about the Dec. 22 inspection. The inspection had been scheduled "... to assure [sic] all damages that were done by your pet has [sic] been repaired."
No documents supplied to the Courier by Nina Jasmin Petrow, attorney for Gay Guilott, Inc. and Gay Guilott, indicated how and when the leasing assistant first learned that the dog had damaged the property. The property damage, however, was verified by photographs Petrow supplied to the Courier.
"They called me and I told them I had been to a doctor's appointment at BAMC (the former Brooks Army Medical Center is now San Antonio Army Medical Center)," Palasek explained. "I told them I was having an extra key made at the hardware store and that I would be home in five minutes."
When he arrived at his mobile home on Dec. 22, an eviction notice had already been placed on the inside of the main entry door. BCSO deputies were on the premises, acting as civil standby. The notice gave Palasek three days to move.
"I started packing immediately and was moved out by Christmas day," he said. "The only thing I left behind was a big screen TV.
Pet vs. service dog
Because Palasek had failed to present the leasing assistant with written verification from his healthcare or mental health provider that he had a disability and needed a service animal, Checkers was considered a "pet," enabling the leasing company to charge the $250 pet deposit. Additionally, Palasek said he was also assessed $25 per day late fee until he paid the pet deposit.
In an email dated Jan. 23, Petrow wrote: "At the time of the lease signing Mr. Palasek was given a pet agreement. At that time he stated that his dog is a service dog. Mrs. Reyes asked that he provide written verification of that. When Mr. Palasek did not provide the required documentation, Mrs. Reyes requested in writing that he sign the pet agreement."
According to a document supplied by Petrow, landlords CAN require a tenant to provide written verification from the tenant's healthcare or mental health provider that the tenant has a disability and needs the service animal.
For his part, Palasek insists that, according to the Americans with Disability Act of 1990, businesses may not:
• Require special identification for the service dog
• Charge fees because of the service dog
• Refuse admittance, isolate, or treat the disabled person less favorably than others.
According to Palasek, he gave the leasing company a fax that included a photo of Checkers and information from Service Dog Registration of America - but not from a healthcare provider.
Not evicted due to dog?
In a letter to the Courier, dated Jan. 20, Petrow asserted: "Furthermore, the Notice Terminating Mr. Palasek's Right of Occupancy specified violations of Paragraphs 14.B, 17.A, 17.D, 27 and 28 of the residential lease. These paragraphs relate to: 1) Access to the property, 2) Tenants general responsibilities including the responsibility to keep the property clean and sanitary, 3) and Prohibitions, including the prohibitions of removing, changing, adding or rekeying any locks or making holes in the walls, etc. None of the cited violations included the dog as a reason for the termination."
However, in an addendum supplied by Petrow to the Courier and signed by Guilott, other reasons cited for Palasek's eviction centered around Checkers, specifically:
• Improper verification of service dog status. Qualified served dog status MUST (Courier emphasis) be given by qualified healthcare or metal [sic] health provider.
• Failure to sign a pet agreement.
"When Mr. Palasek failed to provide the documents as prescribed by the ADA, our client posted a late notice or notice of breach of lease, which provided Mr. Palasek with an opportunity to cure his breach," Petrow's letter continued. "At that time, Mr. Palasek could have 1) cured his breach by paying the pet deposit of $250, or 2) shown he was not in any breach by providing my client with the proper documentation pursuant to the ADA. None of that occurred."
Eviction upheld
Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Eino Zapata upheld the eviction during court proceedings on Jan. 13, assessing costs in the amount of $101, which Guilott Realty, Inc. voluntarily forfeited, according to a clerk in Zapata's office.
Palasek and Checkers are now living in a rental house in San Antonio near the VA Hospital. He hasn't decided whether to pursue the matter in the courts. "If I do, it will be because I want to help other veterans in my situation and bring awareness of how much service dogs help disabled people."
A Georgia native, Palasek moved to the Bandera area because of his love of rodeo. In fact, he works part-time as a rodeo clown in this area. "I know I'm 90 percent disabled, but did you ever do something you love even though it hurts you to do it? That's the way I feel about being a rodeo clown."