Recent Helpful Decision of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Respecting Service Animals
Condominium corporations are required to accommodate the human rights needs of their residents (to the point of undue hardship). So for example, this might mean that a service animal might have to be exempted from any “no pets” provision in a condominium’s governing documents.
In the recent case of Potok v. York Region Condominium Corporation No. 865, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal offered some helpful guidance about the obligations of condominium corporations in relation to service animals.
In the Potok case, the condominium’s Declaration contained a “no pets” provision. The question was whether or not the condominium corporation had improperly refused to exempt the Applicant’s dog from that provision.
The Human Rights Tribunal noted that the issue to be determined by the Tribunal was whether or not the dog qualified as a service animal. In the end, the Tribunal concluded that the dog in question was a “companion or pet and not a service animal or trained support animal”. The Tribunal also noted that the doctor’s note provided to the condominium corporation by the Applicant did not provide sufficient information to confirm the disability or setting out the role and services provided by the dog. The Tribunal said:
While I am sympathetic to the applicant and understand why he strongly believes that the respondent’s “No Dogs” policy is unfair, there is nothing that I can do when the Code (the Human Rights Code) is not engaged.
I think this decision expresses two key principles:
- There is a distinction between a “companion or pet” and a “service animal”, the distinction being that a service animal is needed in order to help a resident with a disability live in the condominium.
- The health professional who provides the proof that the animal in question is in fact a service animal (and not simply a pet) must provide adequate detail of the disability and the related helping role of the animal.
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