Ever since he was involved in a car accident in 2004, Ryan Boylan of Clearwater Beach, Florida has suffered from PTSD and anxiety.
While the physical pain of the crash has faded over time, the emotional damage has never improved. That is, until Boylan met a tiny gray squirrel named Brutis. Boylan rescued Brutis during Hurricane Matthew last year, and he's quickly become attached to the critter.
Boylan says he already "can't imagine not being around her," but he may be forced to say goodbye to his fuzzy friend very soon. Boylan's condo board has given him an eviction notice with a clear ultimatum: get rid of the squirrel, or pack up and leave this month.
The trouble started last April, when a neighborhood dog chased Brutis into a tree. The condo association for Island Walk Condominium filed a complaint to Boylan and the property owner, claiming Brutis is an "exotic animal," and therefore against the rules.
Boylan compares Brutis to an "indoor cat," and says she doesn't cause any trouble. Mostly, she just climbs around Boylan's condo eating her favorite treats: pecans and hazelnuts. He says that the condo board is "pushing every single limitation" to unfairly force Brutis out of the building.
But the state government has weighed in on Boylan's case, and he may have the trump card he needs to keep Brutis in his condo.
In July, three months after Brutis was spotted, Boylan obtained a note from his doctor saying that he needs an emotional support animal.
While the note doesn't specify what kind of animal Boylan needs, he says that his service squirrel is covered by the note. Florida's Office of Human Rights seems to agree with him. After Boylan contacted them, they sent a letter to the condo board explaining that emotional support animals are covered by the Fair Housing Act.
But attorneys for the property say this isn't a case of discrimination. They argue that Boylan never made the condo aware of his pet. They also explain that letting someone keep an "exotic animal" like a squirrel is a liability to other tenants.
"It's just like with any animal," says former condo board member Sherry Arfa. "You can have the nicest dog and they could bite somebody, it's no guarantee." She also says that unlike "a gerbil or something," which would be fine, a squirrel is "a wild animal."
Boylan's case is still pending, but whatever the decision is, we hope that him and Brutis will be alright. After car crashes and hurricanes, these two have already been through enough!
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