FORT WORTH, Texas — Gary Coleman is quick to point out he has a family. It just might be a little different than what people expect.
The 45-year-old man, who suffers from spina bifida, has lived with two "therapy" cats, Milo and Rex, for more than a decade.
"These guys have done something to me I've never been able to get, and that is the love and support of a family," he told WFAA News 8 on Thursday.
But Coleman and his companions are being evicted from their shared room at Mirabella Assisted Living, according to a recently-filed lawsuit in Tarrant County District Court.
Court documents indicate that Coleman's facility changed their pet policy for shared rooms.
"It started about a month ago. I got my first note on the door," he said.
Since then, Coleman has been unable to reach a compromise with management.
He said his psychologist thinks the cats are important for his well being as he fights health struggles.
"I like it here, I feel safe here, but I'm not getting rid of my cats," he said. "I don't have a mom or dad [...] any of that. These cats are my family."
The operator of the facility, Segora Senior Living, released a statement in response to media inquiries that reads in part:
"We have reviewed all of the files and documentation and we do not have any documentation on the resident's two cats being certified as therapy animals. We have requested from the resident, their legal counsel, and Power of Attorney to provide us with the certified animal documentation, which has not been provided as of today."
Company president Brian McCaleb went on to say in the statement they tried to accommodate Coleman in other ways. But Coleman said he can't afford a one-bedroom, private unit at the facility because he is on Medicaid.
Perhaps most striking, Coleman showed News 8 a copy of his original lease from 2012 which clearly spells out an accommodation for "two therapy cats."
As first reported by News 8's content partners at the Star-Telegram, Coleman's lawyer Randy Turner said the situation is a clear violation of the Texas Fair Housing Act.
Coleman said he wants to avoid a legal fight, but felt there were no other options, given his Sept. 11 deadline to move out.