A Norridgewock woman faces forcible eviction from her home for allowing her daughter’s service dog to visit the house for five days in August in what her landlord says is a violation of the lease, which doesn’t allow pets.

Dawn Zammuto, 48, has filed a complaint with the state Human Rights Commission over the eviction. According to Maine state law, people with service dogs cannot be discriminated against in housing accommodations.

Zammuto, who cares for her daughter’s two sons, aged 4 and 2, is scheduled to appear in District Court at 1 p.m. Friday in Skowhegan to fight the eviction order sought by owners Oakley and Donna Brann.

The Branns’ lawyer, John Martin of Skowhegan, said his clients’ position is that the language of the lease is clear — no pets allowed, no exceptions.

Martin said he will research Maine statutes before the Friday hearing to see if the Branns have a legal right under Maine law to forcibly remove Zammuto from her home.

“Whether that’s right under the law or wrong, we are looking into that,” Martin said Wednesday.

Under Title 17 of Maine law, in a subchapter called the Model White Cane Law, “every blind or visually handicapped or otherwise physically or mentally disabled individual who has a service animal, such as a service dog, is entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations.”

The owner of the service dog is liable for any damage done to the premises by the service animal, according to the statute.

The law does not mention previously signed lease agreements with landlords.

Martin said when other tenants of the three-unit mobile home community complained and said they wanted to have pets, too, the Branns felt it was time for legal action leading to eviction.

“They said this is not what we agreed to in the lease,” Martin said. “They were never informed prior to her moving in about her daughters and the use of service dogs. They’ve got nothing against service dogs and nothing against Ms. Zammuto.”

Zammuto’s daughter, Jessica Botto, has conversion disorder, a condition in which psychological stress presents in physical ways and requires use of a service dog. Botto, of Lynn, Mass., can’t walk at times and requires the use of a wheelchair and a service dog to get around.

Zammuto signed the lease in July for the plot on Hatto Farm Road and moved into the home with a large grassy plot and a big yard bordered by trees. Her daughter arrived the first week of August to help her unpack. She brought her service dog, Gracie Goose, with her.

The dog, an 8-year-old Australian shepherd-Husky mix, is licensed as a service dog with the city of Lynn, she said.

Zammuto said she was aware of the no-pets clause in her lease, but thought the Branns would make an exception because of her 26-year-old daughter’s disability.

“At that time I was aware and had been told from the time I had met the landlords that this was a no pet community and I was fine with that,” said Zammuto, a licensed practical nurse who cares for the two children by herself and is in the process of legally adopting them.

There are three mobile homes in the community, which is on a gravel road off U.S. Route 2.

Zammuto’s daughter and her husband and the dog took the bus from Boston to help her unpack.

Two days into the visit Donna Brann asked her about the dog, Zammuto said. She explained that it was a service dog and not her pet and that the dog would not be living there. Brann told her she was violating the terms of the lease and told her the dog had to go.

Botto and the dog left the following Monday and have not returned.

“Everything was fine — I love the trailer, I love the yard,” Zammuto said. “It’s a great area for the kids and a great school system.

“I went to him and said, ‘Can’t we work this out? How can we make this better? I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you or offend you, but my daughter is disabled.’ He said, ‘I want you out.'”

Zammuto said Botto and her service dog would be visiting for a weekend once a month. Zammuto’s other daughter, Heather Conway, 29, of Malden, Mass., has Lupus and also uses a service dog. She would only visit once a year at Christmas or Thanksgiving, she said.

The Branns, through their attorney, filed a forcible entry and detainer eviction complaint Sept. 2, noting that the presence of the dog violated the lease agreement and that Zammuto had been served with a seven-day notice to quit the property on Aug. 12 and was still living there.

Zammuto contacted Pine Tree Legal Assistance, which provides free legal help to Maine people with low income. She also filed a housing discrimination complaint Aug. 25 with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

The Branns hired Martin.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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