Judge voids eviction for unauthorized pet on grounds cat is a 'service' animal

LACONIA — A 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division judge ruled Thursday that a local landlord cannot evict a couple from their apartment because the cat they own is a "service" cat for their 15-year-old niece.

H & P Apartments has long had a no-pets policy. One of the owners said recently that they have never allowed pets because of noise and damage concerns.

When they found out recently that one of their tenants had a cat, they started an eviction process but Judge Jim Carroll ruled that because a mental health clinician at Genesis Behavior Health recommended the girl have a cat "in order to decrease depression and anxiety symptoms in the home" there would be no eviction.

In his two-sentence decision, Carroll wrote that the defendant, in this case, the girl's uncle, "has presented sufficient evidence that the cat is a service pet for his niece who is a legal resident of the apartment. Eviction denied."

According to the Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire, the Fair Housing Act of 1988 and the New Hampshire Human Rights Laws (RSA 354-A) protect the rights of people to have support animals in their homes, even when the landlord has a no-pets policy.

However, there are some rules that apply to getting an exemption from a no-pets police including that the person has a disability, that the person needs the animal to function and there must be a relationship between the applicants ability to function and the assistance the animal provides.

The Disability Rights Center's on-line bulletin also says that a tenant with a disability exemption animal can not be a nuisance to other tenants and if the animal causes any damage the tenant is responsible for any costs associated with it or for cleaning costs.

The bulletin said a tenant should make a written request for a service animal for a "reasonable accommodation" and that a note from a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or other mental health professional is required.

The landlord is not allowed to ask for an additional "pet" deposit.

A representative from H & P apartments declined comment saying he was consulting with his attorney about Judge Carroll's decision.

Dragonfly said to have caused Coca-Cola truck overturn in Northfield

NORTHFIELD — A man driving a Coca-Cola truck escaped serious injury after he lost control of his vehicle on Rte. 140 yesterday when a dragonfly flew into his window and became lodged between his glasses and his eyeball.

Police Sgt. James McIntire said the unnamed driver tried to remove the insect from behind his glasses but swerved the truck and blew out a tire.

The truck drove through the drive rail, said McIntire and landed on its side, spilling Coca-Cola products into the ditch and along the highway.

McIntire said the driver was taken by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia for evaluation. The dragonfly has not been located.

Magazine identifies Laconia as great place for young lawyers to start a career

LACONIA — According to Tipping the Scales, an online magazine for lawyers, this city is the fifth best small city in America for young attorneys to find a job.

Tipping the Scales used four criteria in its evaluation of more than 500 U.S. towns and small cities: average lawyer salary, an housing affordability index or the percentage of income spent on homes, amenities like recreation, and arts and entertainment, and "employee attractiveness rank — or a combination of law job density, availability, and competition.

The article said information compiled by Good Call indicated that the average Laconia attorney earns $117,000 annually, spends 12.36 percent of his or her income on housing, that there are 9.39 amenities per 1,000 households and the employment attractiveness is 10.

Executive Director Karmen Gifford of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce said that she was initially glad the publication recognized the city but then started to give it some real thought.

In a telephone interview yesterday she named five young lawyers in the city who have come to the area to practice including Alison Ambrose of Wescott Law, Joseph Driscoll and Lissa Mascio who recently joined Martin, Lord and Osman and James Ball who joined Lawson, Persson and Weldon-Franke.

Gifford noted that Mascio was just named to one of the committees for the N.H. Bar Association.

She described them as all young and upcoming attorneys with bright futures in the area and a commitment to local causes.

For some established lawyers in the Laconia area — Laconia's population was listed as 30,000 so presumably it reflects the "greater Laconia area" — the article was a total surprise and for some it wasn't a surprise at all.

Matt Lahey is a life-long city resident and practicing attorney who said that "he doesn't see it". Lahey primarily practices criminal defense law, personal injury and workers compensation law where he said he hasn't seen any real increase in demand.

Lahey said he could easily understand why someone would want to live here and said the price of housing is lower here that in the capitol region and the southern part of the state, but wondered if the article was about people who practice elsewhere and live in the greater Laconia area.

Attorney Paul Fitzgerald, who was one of the first people to come across the article, said he agrees with Lahey regarding some fields of law, like criminal defense, but noted that with the local real estate market — especially some of the high-end developments around Lake Winnipesaukee — attorneys in those areas of practice would be seeking some young, talented attorneys.

"Almost any lawyer will tell you there is opportunity in the Lakes Region," he said. He also said there is a growing interest in branch location in the area, meaning established law firms that are not centered in the Lakes Region are looking for a presence here.

Fitzgerald also said that because New Hampshire is a good state for retirement for reasonably well-off people, estate, real estate, trust and elder law areas are in higher demand.

Edmund Boutin of Boutin Altieri PLLC of Meredith said to him Laconia and its environs is a unique place to practice law.

"I left Washington, D.C. to return here," he said. "It's a place for a decent work-life balance."

His practice concentrates on environmental insurance coverage disputes, legal ethics and professional liability defense, business and corporate law, utility law, and municipal and zoning law. Boutin Altieri has three other offices in Londonderry, Fairfield, Conn. and Carmel, NY.

He said his firm practices in specialty legal areas but always tries to hire locally for each of its offices.

"Historically, Laconia and has some very decent law firms and courts," Boutin said, noting younger attorneys are looking for pleasant working relationships with good, reputable lawyers and firms, as well as a good income.

"If you want to practice quality law with quality attorneys and firms, then come to Laconia," Boutin said.