As we have reported in prior blog posts, many pet owners who have breached the pet restrictions in their condominium documents will go to great lengths to keep the pet when the condominium corporation takes steps to enforce these restrictions.
In a recent case, SCC No. 89 v Dominelli, a pet owner unsuccessfully tried to assert that she had a disability, which required the condominium corporation to accommodate her by allowing her to keep her dog that exceeded the condominium’s 25-pound weight restriction.
When the pet owner moved in with her fiancé, the unit owner, she brought along her dog, even though the dog clearly exceeded the weight restriction set out in the condominium rules. After the property manager demanded that the dog be permanently removed the pet owner’s initial response was that the dog was a therapy dog for her work with autistic children. The property manager responded that the dog had to be removed unless it serviced a resident of the unit.
Then the pet owner provided a doctor’s letter that stated that the dog was a service/therapy dog to help her with stress. However, the evidence from the doctor did not provide a clear diagnosis or establish that the pet owner suffer from a disability under the Human Rights Code which would require accommodation. Additional information about the pet owner’s medical condition was requested by the condominium corporation but was refused. The doctor’s position was that the pet owner was not required to provide any personal medical details to validate her claim.
The Court determined that the pet owner had failed to provide evidence that established that she had a disability. “To establish a ‘mental disability’, a diagnosis of some recognised mental disability, or at least a ‘working diagnosis or articulation of clinically-significant symptoms’ that has ‘specificity and substance’ is required”. In addition, even if the pet owner had established that she had a disability, no evidence was presented that she required a dog weighing over 25 pounds.
The Court confirmed that the condominium corporation was entitled to seek additional information about the pet-owner’s disability, which the pet owner was required to provide. By refusing to provide this information, the pet owner failed to cooperate in the accommodation request process. The pet owner also damaged her credibility in the eyes of the judge by refusing to admit that the dog weighed over 25 pounds.
The Court granted a declaration that the condominium corporation did not breach any provisions of the Human Rights Code by requiring compliance with the rules and ordered that the dog be permanently removed from the unit.