A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has received medical evidence indicating that a woman is at risk of suicide if she loses her dogs.
Stephanie Kallstrom told her physician that she will harm herself if she cannot keep her three dogs at her condo unit.
“The patient has disclosed that if the tribunal were to rule that she cannot keep her dogs she would jump off her balcony in order to end her suffering,” tribunal member Paul Singh quoted from a doctor’s note submitted by Kallstrom.
Kallstrom has filed a complaint against her strata corporation because she is not being allowed to have three dogs.
The strata’s bylaw permits only two dogs or two cats or one of each.
The Strata Property Act provides an exemption if one of the dogs is certified under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act (GDSA).
Kallstrom has indicated that none of her dogs are certified under the GDSA.
Kallstrom has also signified that two of her dogs are “pets”, and the third one named Ember is an “emotional support animal”.
According to tribunal member Singh, the woman says she has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and severe depression.
“She says that she requires all three dogs in her Unit to accommodate her disability and that the Respondents’ refusal to allow her to do so has caused an exacerbation of her mental disability,” Singh wrote in his reasons for decision, which orders a hearing on the woman’s complaint.
Singh noted that Kallstrom filed a letter dated April 22, 2019 from her family physician, Dr. Lauren Fineman.
“As you are aware, Stephanie has been struggling with depression and anxiety,” Fineman wrote. “Her symptoms have worsened due to dealing with the stress of the conflict with her strata. There is no doubt that if her smaller dog(s) were removed from her possession, this would have a detrimental effect on her mental health.”
Singh also related that Kallstrom submitted another letter from Fineman, which was dated July 11, 2019.
“I have seen her mental health decline rapidly to the point where we have reviewed safety protocols and crisis intervention plans in light of suicidal ideation… We have initiated medications for treatment of depression and anxiety… she has been attending counseling sessions with a psychologist on a regular basis, and she has been referred to a psychiatrist for further assistance,” Fineman wrote.
It was in this July 2019 letter that Fineman indicated Kallstrom’s forewarning about jumping off her balcony.
Fineman also stated: “It is of paramount importance that we place her safety as a priority and ensure she does not end up on a situation that could place her at risk of suicide.”
According to Singh, the strata corporation disputes the “relevance and reliability of Dr. Fineman’s evidence and rely, instead, on Ms. Kallstrom’s admission at the Strata Hearing that two of her dogs are not emotional support animals required to cope with her disability but, rather, are simply pets”.
“Notwithstanding the evidentiary dispute on this issue, I cannot find, given Dr. Fineman’s evidence, that Ms. Kallstrom has no reasonable prospect of proving a disability‐related adverse impact from not having all three dogs in her Unit,” Singh noted.
Singh likewise pointed out that the doctor has “expressed concern, given the severe nature of Ms. Kallstrom’s mental disability, that she is at risk of suicide if she is unable to have three dogs in her Unit”.
“Given the extreme nature of Ms. Kallstrom’s reaction to not having three dogs in her Unit, Dr. Fineman’s evidence, if accepted, could support a connection between Ms. Kallstrom’s mental disability and the need for three dogs in her Unit,” Singh wrote. “This evidence takes Ms. Kallstrom’s Complaint out of the realm of conjecture and shifts the onus to the Respondents to justify their conduct.”
According to Singh, there is no evidence that the strata took steps to accommodate Kallstrom condition.
Without such evidence, Kallstrom’s complaint cannot be dismissed without a hearing, Singh ruled.