Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published April 4, 2005
BEACH -- After more than a year of wrangling, Reuben Wactlar is finally free
to keep one of his most precious possessions -- a doe-eyed Pomeranian named
"It really got to me a little bit," Wactlar, 83, said of the lengthy
brouhaha over Trixie. "Here they were trying to take away my lifelong
friend and companion."
Wactlar's troubles began in December 2003, when he received a stern notice
from his homeowners association ordering him to get rid of Trixie to comply
with the community's no-pet policy.
In the 27 years Wactlar has lived in the Meadows of Crystal Lake, he has owned
three dogs, all named Trixie because of his failing memory, he said. Wactlar
said he never had any trouble until a year ago, when the association decided
to enforce its no-pet rule.
But recently, Wactlar won permission from the association to keep his tiny
companion as an "emotional support" animal.
Board members had a change of heart soon after Wactlar filed a harassment and
discrimination complaint in November with the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development, which referred the case to the Broward County Office of
Equal Opportunity Civil Rights Division.
While the association agreed to let Wactlar keep his dog, the pet ban remains
in effect for other residents in this retirement community of 350
well-manicured homes east of Military Trail and north of Sample Road.
"We're giving him an accommodation because he does have a
disability," said Richard Collura, the newly elected president of the
association. "It's the law."
Wactlar lost the use of his legs years ago after a series of strokes. A cancer
survivor, he also suffers from heart problems, diabetes and a history of
depression. But three times a day, he takes Trixie to a nearby park on his
Wactlar trumped the no-pet rule with a so-called "prescription pet"
defense, in which his doctor wrote a letter saying he needs a pet to combat
depression. Other residents were not so fortunate.
Wactlar was among five residents to receive the "no pet" warning in
December 2003. All were told they faced daily fines.
Two residents got rid of their dogs. One woman, who has since died, refused to
part with her Shih Tzu and sold her home. One man, a bird owner, got lucky
when the association changed its rules in January to allow birds and fish.
In his complaint to HUD, Wactlar said he was harassed several times when a
board member of the association taunted him about getting rid of Trixie.
"I felt anxious and fearful of losing Trixie -- my heart was
breaking," Wactlar wrote.
Trixie joined the Wactlar home more than three years ago, when Wactlar's wife,
Alice, bought the pup after their 12-year-old Pomeranian died.
Neighbor Marianne Petersson said she remembers Wactlar being severely
depressed four years ago when he was "between dogs."
"Trixie is his life," she said. "Little Trixie gives him a
reason to live."