Service dog spurs court dispute between veteran and landlord

Landlords and Tenants Should be aware of a “service animal”.

(WEAR) — A combat-wounded veteran was in court Monday in a dispute with his former landlord over a security deposit. On paper, the court proceeding was about a legal maneuver called a summary judgement, but in Army veteran Matthew Kopcsak’s heart, it’s about his service dog, Sarge.

Kopcsak was injured in an IED blast in Iraq in 2004. Since then, one of his struggles has been with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He got the service dog on a recommendation from the VA as an alternative to prescription drugs.

Kopcsak choked up and his face was overcome with emotion as he said, “It was at the point where it was hard to go out in public. Over the past year that I’ve had him, it’s made a significant difference. I’ve opened up more; it’s very comforting.”
When he got Sarge, Kopcsak was 23 months into a 3-year lease, which said animals were only allowed with the landlord’s approval. He said his landlord, Dale Register, told him if he kept the dog, he’d be kicked out.
To Kopcsak there was no choice but to move.
Kopcsak said he left the house pristine and has pictures to prove it. He wants his deposit of $2,150 back, but he said Register told him the place was trashed and unlivable.

In court, Register stated, “I have all the evidence if I can present it.”
Because the hearing was on a summary judgment motion, no evidence was presented by either side. That will only happen if the case moves forward.
Register appeared without an attorney because his counsel suddenly withdrew last week. It was the second lawyer he lost.
Register and Kopcsak have been fighting about the deposit and other issues since late 2015. Members of the Marine Corps League helped Kopcsak move and find an attorney.
They showed their support in court Monday.

“There’s a moral issue here,” said Ed Rouse of the Marine Corps League. “Here’s a man who’s in this condition simply because he served his country in a combat zone. And now you’re making his life harder for him and his family. Doesn’t sound right to me.”
The judge continued the case for 30 days so Register could find a new lawyer. Kopcsak said at this point he wants more than money.
“Return my security deposit, apologize for what you’ve done and for some legal aspect to be in place to make sure he can never do this again to another tenant,” said Kopcsak.