Article replublished from | from January 6th 2023 by James Davidson

In the case of Waterloo North Condominium Corporation No. 70 v. Sinyard, the condominium corporation sought an order for the removal of a dog. The corporation had two reasons:

The dog exceeded the weight limit (9 kg / 20 lbs) in the condominium corporation’s Rules.
In accordance with the corporation’s Rules, the Board had also concluded that the dog should be removed because the dog was a nuisance due to the dog’s aggressive behaviour.
The dog owner had asserted that the dog was needed in order to accommodate a disability. However, the CAT held that this had not been adequately proven.

The dog owner had provided a letter from her family doctor stating as follows: “This patient is suffering from chronic medical conditions that require the use of a service dog, daisy. She has been using Daisy since 2018 for these conditions.“

The CAT said that this was not sufficient evidence of the need. The CAT said:

Medical evidence is not necessarily required to establish that a person has a disability as it may be obvious. A person who requires a wheelchair, for example, should not need to produce medical evidence of a disability (although medical evidence may be necessary to establish the person’s disability-related needs). However, in most cases, the person or organization that is being asked to accommodate a person because of disability is entitled to have medical confirmation of the disability and entitled to ask for clarification if the initial information is not sufficient to establish that there are disability related needs. Medical evidence will also generally be required to establish that the person with the disability has needs related to that disability which require accommodation. The medical evidence that is required does not necessarily have to identify a diagnosis and care must be taken when seeking clarification to respect the dignity of the person and their rights to privacy.

In this case, the medical evidence provided by the Respondent is very limited and vague. “Chronic medical conditions” may or may not include conditions that meet the definition of disability as defined by the Code.

The CAT also said that – even if the dog owner could prove that the dog was needed due to a disability – it would still be necessary to address the dog’s aggressive behaviour. The CAT’s decision included the following:

The available evidence does not support that the Respondent has disability-related needs that require her to have a dog that weighs more than 9 kilograms. While it can be inferred that the Respondent has a strong attachment to her dog, this itself is not sufficient to require an accommodation under the Code. In addition, the available evidence indicates that an accommodation to allow the Respondent to keep the dog could result in undue hardship for the Condominium because of the risks to safety from the dog’s aggressive behaviour and the Respondent’s inability to control her dog.

The CAT also said: “In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I cannot find that the weight restriction rule is unreasonable.“

In my view, this is a very helpful case about “service animals” and pet Rules. To me, the takeaways are:

  • The CAT is continuing to uphold the following established principle: In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the CAT will defer to condominium Boards when it comes to condominium Rules (including pet Rules).
  • Someone claiming that an animal is needed because of a disability will have to provide reasonable medical proof of the need unless the need is apparent. The evidence must also show that it is not reasonably possible to comply with the Rules because of the need. Furthermore, if the evidence is that the animal would be a threat to the health and safety of others, this might well constitute undue hardship.