updated 8/18/2004 9:29:35 AM ET 2004-08-18T13:29:35

A judge has upheld an order blocking an apartment complex from evicting a woman who says she needs to keep her late mother’s dog because it helps her fight depression over the mother’s death.

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Christine Emmick has a disability and is entitled to keep her Shih Tzu, Max, despite the no-pets rule at Royalwood Cooperative Apartments, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission ruled.

The apartment complex “refused to reasonably accommodate her mental disability by allowing her to keep a dog,” and violated the state’s Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, the commission ruled earlier this year.

The ruling was upheld last week by Oakland County Circuit Judge Fred Mester.

“I was skeptical of the case at first,” Mester told the Detroit Free Press on Monday. “But when you look at the facts of the case, the cooperative was violating the law.

“This is not a case where somebody says, ‘I have a headache, and a dog would make it better.’ This woman had a well-documented disability and was able to prove that the dog helps her in coping with that disability.”

'Nothing more than a pet'
The commission awarded Emmick $107,749 in emotional damages and attorney fees.

A lawyer for the co-op criticized the ruling. “The dog, as far as the cooperative is concerned, is nothing more than a pet,” said Patrick Rode.

Emmick, a former graphics designer, brought her mother to Michigan in 1998, along with Max, to care for her after she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

The co-op board told Emmick the dog had to go. She later moved her mother to an apartment building that allowed pets, but after her mother died in 2000 she brought Max back to her Royalwood apartment.

In April 2001, the cooperative’s board of directors voted to evict her.

A psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Abramsky, told the commission that Emmick’s relationship with Max “kept her afloat and stabilized her functionally and emotionally ... without the dog, she would probably spend most of her life in bed.”

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