Lawrence County man sues homeless shelter for refusing guide dog
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A Lawrence County man who said he was denied access to a homeless shelter because he had a guide dog sued in federal court today.
Kenneth Defiore, 53, of Edinburg, had gradually become blind due to ocular hypertension and glaucoma, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court. He was prescribed a guide dog, and got a trained chocolate labrador retriever named Gabby in 2010.
A former civil rights advocate with the Disabilities Option Network, he suffered an apartment fire and was evicted in December 2010, the complaint said. He sought shelter at the City Rescue Mission of New Castle.
When he told mission officials that he had a service animal, they said that the facility could not handle the animal, the complaint said. He protested that such a policy was illegal, and enlisted an advocate on his behalf, but the mission would not budge, it said.
Mr. Defiore then "attempted to take his [own] life by lying down in a roadway," it said, but a police officer saved him. After a brief hospitalization, he was able to find housing.
The complaint, filed by Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services of Washington, said the mission's decisions violated the Fair Housing Act and caused Mr. Defiore anxiety and humiliation. It demanded compensation, and an order that the mission stop discriminating on the basis of handicaps.
Mission Executive Director Kevin A. Green could not be immediately reached for comment.
First Published November 1, 2012 5:20 pm