CAT Permits Resident With a Disability to Keep Her Dog

In the case of YRSCC No. 1375 v. Sousa, the parties agreed that the resident needed a dog because of the resident’s disability. However, the condominium corporation argued that a smaller dog that complied with the condominium corporation’s rules could meet this need.

The resident argued that she needed to keep her own dog (a German Shepherd which exceeded the 25-pound weight limit in the condominium corporation’s rules and also was a prohibited breed under the corporation’s rules).

The Tribunal agreed with the resident.  

The Tribunal began by saying that a smaller dog, of a different breed, could meet the resident’s needs. The Tribunal said that reports and letters submitted into evidence “do not specifically state that her needs must be met by a dog that weighs more than 25 pounds, or that a breed such as German Shepherd is necessary”

But the Tribunal went on to state as follows:

However, contrary to the Applicant’s view, I find that what the letters and reports – particularly the most detailed report dated July 18, 2021 – do demonstrate is that King (the dog) itself is necessary for the Respondent. By way of example, the letter dated August 20, 2021, expressly states that King is “indispensable” to the Respondent for addressing her particular needs. In general, the reports appear to support this notion, and I am not prepared to substitute my or the Applicant’s non-expert assessment for that of the several qualified professionals whose letters and reports have been entered into evidence.

I am persuaded by the accumulation of such materials and other evidence in this case that, on at least a balance of probabilities, the Respondent’s desire to keep King is not merely a matter of preference, but that King is indispensable to the Respondent to meet her needs for which she is entitled to accommodation and that King could not simply be replaced by another dog. I therefore find that the Respondent’s requested accommodation – i.e., to keep King in the condominium –is the accommodation to which she is entitled under the (Human Rights Code).

The Tribunal went on to find that there was no undue hardship to the condominium corporation (if the resident kept the dog).

So in summary: If a resident can prove that their own dog is indispensable to their needs (and not just a preference), it appears that the resident may have the right to keep that particular dog (even if a dog that complies with the rules could otherwise “serve the resident’s needs”).

It seems to me that many residents – particularly residents with a need for emotional support – may be able to argue and prove that their own dog is indispensable to them.  This is something that condominium corporations should keep in mind when reviewing requests for accommodation.

In cases where a “service dog” is to be permitted, we often recommend some additional requirements, as conditions of the accommodation. For instance, it may often be proper to ask that the dog wear a service dog vest (so that all residents can understand the presence of the “non-compliant” dog). It may also be proper to require some added controls on the dog’s movement (such as a requirement for a short leash, or that the dog be transported in a carrier, or other controls, particularly while in an elevator) for the protection of residents who fear dogs or larger dogs. Again, the point is that some conditions may often be appropriate when a service dog is to be permitted.

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