A Long Island family driven from their home by Sandy is at risk of being evicted from their temporary home because of their autistic son's service dog.
Fifteen-year-old Randy Loiacano has had Oobi, a black Labrador for 10 years. The Labrador is specially trained to find Randy if he wanders off and gets lost.
When Sandy drove them from their Massapequa home, Randy's mother Karen had no choice but to move her children, herself and Oobi into her soon-to-be ex-husband's co-op in Flushing, Queens.
"We lost our house. My son is severely autistic and needed this dog. And the person who took us in was getting evicted. You can't have worse circumstances," said Karen Loiacano.
But Oobi was suffering from a growing chest tumor and within a few days of moving to Queens, he had to be put to sleep. Ten days after they put Oobi to rest, the Loiacanos received a notice from the building's attorney, telling them they were breaking the co-op's rules about keeping dogs as pets and ordered them to remove the dog by Nov. 27 or risk eviction.
Because Oobi had already passed, the family assumed there was nothing left for them to do. But on Christmas Eve, they learned they were being evicted because they "failed to comply" with the previous order -- the order asking them to remove their dog, who had already been cremated and laid to rest.
"It's cruel and it's inhumane, and it really makes no sense whatsoever," said Karen Loiacano.
An attorney for the building's owner, the Second Housing Company, said that if the family had notified them beforehand and received pre-approval to have a service animal, there would have been no problem. But the Loiacanos argue that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy they had much more pressing matters on their minds.
The building's owner is suing the Loiacanos for $2,000, including legal fees. It's money the family doesn't have right now. They have a court date in mid-February, but they hope it does not come to that.
"I want the whole thing to go away just so we can focus on rebuilding this house and the kids can get back in there," said Gary Loiacano, Karen Loiacano's ex-husband.
An attorney for the building's owner said the family violated the co-op's rules about pets. When NBC 4 New York contacted them for comment on the circumstances the family was facing, the attorney, Bruce Sontag of Roslyn Heights, said he would consult with the building's owner.