Shuswap woman’s struggle with strata over therapy dog becomes human rights case

BC Human Rights Tribunal to rule on allegations of discrimination

A Salmon Arm woman’s dispute with a strata owner over keeping a therapy dog has gone to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) has decided they will rule on allegations of discrimination against the woman by the owners and property manager at the strata where she lives.

According BCHRT documents, the complaint, filed on March 18, 2019, alleges discrimination based on mental and physical disability surrounding a disagreement over a therapy dog.

The complainant alleges she was repeatedly contacted by members of the strata council and told to get rid of the dog.

The documents state the womanlisted the dog with the therapy dog registry and had a letter from her doctor expressing the physical and mental health benefits she gained from having the dog and, while the strata has a no pet policy, other owners had been allowed to have a therapy dog after supplying a letter from a doctor. The woman’s dog was owned by previous residents of the strata who left it to her when they passed away in mid-2017.

The Human Rights Tribunal imposes a limit where those making complaints must file them within one year of the event described. Some of the interactions which the submission to the human rights tribunal allege amount to discrimination took place in 2017, well before the March 2019 filing.

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The documents state the complainant claimed she was contacted by a member of the strata council in the fall of 2017 and told that she would be sued if she didn’t get rid of the dog. In December of that year, she argued her case for keeping the dog before the strata council and was subsequently told she could if it completed the province’s Guide Dog and Service Dog Certification by April 2018.

It’s claimed the matter was put on hold as the strata moved a bylaw amendment allowing dogs and cats with certain conditions forward at their annual general meeting. After that motion was defeated, the strata is alleged to have informed the dog owner she would face fines beginning on Oct. 12, 2018, if she did not have the dog certified or removed.

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The decision states the BCHRT sought submissions from both parties involved to help decide whether it would rule on or dismiss the complaint. Following the submissions, they ruled that events which allegedly took place as recently as September 2018 were connected to earlier instances called discriminatory in the complaint.

The alleged events which took place in 2017 and early 2018 will be considered, along with the more recent ones because, according to the BCHRT documents, they form part of a continuing contravention of the BC Human Rights Code if they are factual.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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