Veteran finds home after legal battle over service dog

HOUSTON - A veteran refused to give up, fighting to keep his service dog when a realty agency tried to ban his special companion. The case ended up settling, but Sgt. Derek Kolb is fighting for rights of all veterans who have service dogs.

Kolb said he has the utmost respect for our country and the time he served with the Army overseas in Iraq, but says when he came back from his eight years of service he was a changed man. 

He said he tried to go back to school but "I failed three semesters in a row, ended up homeless for about two years. I lost my family, all of it ."

Leasing agency Tramco found a rental property for Kolb in May 2013, but rejected the two dogs he had been partnered with for treatment of his post-traumatic stress disorder after an employee said they looked aggressive. The dogs had been trained by Train a Dog, Save a Warrio, which works with shelter dogs.

"Hank has the interesting ability to tell before I have a migraine," he said. "If I get real anxious or nervous, he can tell that."

He said having a service dog was and still is crucial to his PTSD treatment. He said Hank is much more than a part of the family, he is also constantly at work to make sure Kolb is safe.

"I can sit here and look just like a normal functioning person in society, but have immense things I have to work through on a daily basis and Hank helps me with those things," Kolb said.

He said the rejection sent him into a downward spiral.

"It affected me, it affected me significantly," Kolb said. "It brought me to a very low point, where considering suicide was a very open option."

Kolb went with another realty agency and became a home owner, buying a home in Cypress where Hank is always welcome.

His attorney, Tyler VanHoutan with Winston & Strawn, said,"People need to get more educated, especially those in the real estate business, and really need to get more educated on the law and with people who have disabilities that need service dogs. "

Part of the settlement involves employees at Tramco going through additional training pertaining to the American with Disabilities Act and other laws involving service dogs.

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