Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Help Me Howard: Dog Dilemma
Her landlord went into her apartment without notice. Her dog ran away and ended up with a broken leg. Who has to pay? Help Me Howard is on the case. Here's Seven's Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Meet Pixie.
Laura Wilson: "I adopted her from the Broward County Animal Fair about a year and a half ago and just fell in love with her."
And meet Laura, who right now is not a happy dog owner.
Laura Wilson: "She needs to stay laying down unless she uses the bathroom, she hobbles around on three legs. Itís just difficult."
Laura discovered the injury when she got home from work
Laura Wilson: "And the dog was dragging her leg or her leg looked like it was hurt."
It turns out the landlord had let an electrician in to fix a problem. But no one told Laura he was coming.
Laura Wilson: "He left the door open, apparently going back and forth from his truck."
Pixie took off -- but, before finding out what happened, Laura had to get Pixie's leg checked out.
Laura Wilson: "So I had to rush her to the Hollywood Animal Hospital where they took X-rays and it was broken severely."
After spending $3,000 for the surgery to repair the leg, Laura called the electrician to find out how the dog was injured. When he denied it, she called his boss who told the truth.
Laura Wilson: "He said that the guys told him that he dropped her and chased her with a car for three blocks."
They had chased Pixie trying to catch her after she escaped, but they refused to pay for the vet bill and told her to call her landlord -- who opened the door, so she did.
Laura Wilson: "He told me he wasn't responsible."
No one would accept responsibility -- and guess who is left holding the vet's bill? Laura.
Laura Wilson: "I just can't imagine that this is right, that an apartment dweller should come home and their animal is maimed. Like, to the point of a $3,000 surgery and that no one even wants to offer an apology or anything."
What can she do? Turn to the last place for help -- Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Your landlord can come into your apartment only for an emergency, like a water heater leaking or a fire. Every other Florida Law requires that a landlord give at least 12 hours of notice before entering a tenantís apartment. If they fail to do that and damage occurs, they are responsible."
When Help Me Howard talked to the landlord, he told us he had notified Laura's roommate that he was coming.
She denies that.
He then said he was not responsible for the dog escaping and will not pay the vet bill. Howard says it doesn't matter what he says, it matters what a judge says.
Howard Finkelstein: "These types of disputes are very tough to resolve. When someone refuses to pay the only real option is to go to small claims court. I know when I say that people roll their eyes because they think they canít do it. But small claims court was designed just for cases like this and for people who donít have lawyers."
Laura could do that and Howard thinks she would probably win.
But she says the last few days things have grown tense with her landlord. So, to avoid trouble, she may just drop it.
And worry instead about her dog.
Laura Wilson: "She's usually a happy dog. Runs around wagging her tail, and she's just not happy. She sleeps like all the time now."
Patrick Fraser: "The reason the law requires landlords to give 12 hours notice before coming into your place is to give you time to hide things -- jewelry, mementos or to put things away you don't want people to see -- like your dirty underwear."
It also gives you time to put your dog or cat somewhere else, if they like to shoot out the door.
By the way, if the landlord had given them notice and the tenant did nothing and the dog ran out, it's the tenant's fault. Of course, in this case, it doesn't appear Laura got any notice at all.
Doggone irritated at a problem? Want someone to chase down a solution? Give us notice, we'll unlock a solution.
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