The City of Calgary recently amended its Responsible Pet Ownership By-law to include farm animals as emotional support animals. This will allow farm animals such as chickens, sheep and pigs to live in residential dwellings as long as certain conditions are met:
- The animal’s owner must obtain a permit from the City;
- A mental health professional must determine that the animal is needed for owner’s emotional support; and
- The owner must ensure that the City’s guidelines for the care and maintenance of the animal are met – this means that the owner must have adequate outdoor space for the animal (which will vary depending on the type of animal) and the owner must identify a veterinarian who will tend to the animal’s health needs.
Wildlife and exotic animals are not permitted under the by-law amendment.
As this change in the City by-law makes it legal to house farm animals in residential premises, condo residents with a farm animal as an emotional support animal will find themselves in a stronger position in any bid they make to keep the animal within the condominium. However, because of the requirement for adequate outdoor space, many farm animals could probably not be accommodated in condominium apartment units.
While dogs and cats have been the traditional and most well-known emotional support animals, this by-law amendment recognizes that for some people a farm animal may fulfill this need. In a prior blog post we reported about a condo owner in Florida who was embroiled in a dispute with his condo association about his pet squirrel. He claimed that the squirrel was an emotional support animal that helped him deal with post-traumatic stress following a car accident.
In Ontario condominium corporations are obliged to comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”). Section 2(1) of the Code provides that every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to occupancy of accommodation without discrimination because of disability. As compliance with the Code has priority over the condominium documents, condominium corporations are required to make reasonable accommodation up to the point of undue hardship for disabled residents. This means that animals that may be otherwise prohibited in the condominium declaration or rules may be acceptable as an emotional support animal in some circumstances in order to accommodate a disabled resident.
More and more condominium corporations are receiving accommodation requests from disabled residents who want to keep an emotional support animal that is otherwise not permitted to reside in the condominium. The variety of animals serving as emotional support animals goes beyond dogs and cats. Whenever a corporation receives a request to accommodate an emotional support animal, the request must be carefully considered by the board in consultation with legal counsel to ensure that the corporation complies with the Code.