Navy veteran fighting Jupiter community HOA to keep service dog off leash

Article Courtesy of  WBPF Channel 25

By Jade Jarvis

Published April 17, 2023



JUPITER -- A U.S. Navy veteran in Jupiter is in a battle with his homeowner's association over the right to have his service dog off-leash in their neighborhood.

Tim Durbin has PTSD and said his dog needs to be loose so she can respond when he has a medical emergency, but the HOA said it’s against the rules and has fined him several times.

While he was serving in the Navy, Durbin said he was held captive as a prisoner of war in Egypt and was beaten, waterboarded, and tortured for 23 days, causing him to develop PTSD.

He says his trained and certified service dog, Bella, has helped him cope with the symptoms, including debilitating night terrors, but now he says he’s fighting so she can continue her important work outside of their home.


“My wife of 12 years, she would get up every night at 10 til two, and she'd go make some chamomile tea and come back at 10 after two because I would be screaming at the top of my lungs for about 10 minutes,” Durbin said.

Durbin said Bella helps him recover from PTSD episodes by tapping him with her paws, nudging him, or barking to wake him.

“Three years without that, 35 years with it. So, you know, she's changed my life,” Durbin said.

They live together in the Riverwalk community in Jupiter, and Durbin prefers to keep her off-leash or untethered while he does things like play pickleball or ride his bike so she can quickly get to him if he needs her.

Durbin said the complaints about Bella are coming from one HOA member. The first came in December of last year. The member told Durbin he was going to get a legal opinion about Bella being off-leash.

Then about two months later, he said he got a verbal warning and then emails from that same member.

“We've looked into this, and we have decided that we're not going to recognize your dog as a service dog. And therefore, we are going to fine you every time she's off-leash,” Durbin said.

Since then, he’s been fined three times – a total of $300.

“A person with a disability has a right to treat their disability, their medical conditions, the way they choose to,” said Matthew Dietz, the clinical director of the Disability, Inclusion and Advocacy Law Clinic at Nova Southeastern University College of Law. "A condominium cannot dictate whether or not this guy should take medications instead of having a service animal. It's how he chooses to care for his disability, and that's his choice, not the association's."

Dietz said the federal Fair Housing Act protects people with service or emotional support animals and supersedes any state or local law, including from an HOA.

“You could ask for any modification of any rule, any condo rule, any rule anywhere if it's necessary for the person with a disability,” Dietz said. "So if they said you can't have a 90-pound dog, and you choose to have a 90-pound dog, they can't say you have to have a 25-pound dog."

Durbin said he’s provided a doctor’s note and Bella’s certification to the HOA, but they told him they will keep fining him until he complies with their rules.

However, he refuses to move and plans to stay and fight.

“I like this area. I like the accommodations. I shouldn't let one guy violate federal law,” Durbin said.

Congressman Brian Mast’s office has confirmed that they are investigating this situation but do not comment on pending cases.

WPBF 25 News also reached out to the Riverwalk community HOA. They said, “The matter is subject to pending litigation, and we cannot comment.”