Pet dog to remain with girl dealing with trauma, strata’s canine ban declared unenforceable

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      A young girl and her dog are going to stay together.

      A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has declared a strata bylaw prohibiting dogs unenforceable for her case.

      The girl lives with her mother at a strata property, and she and her parent have told the tribunal that the dog is helping her get well from her physical and mental challenges.

      The strata chose not to defend the rule, acknowledging that its ban against dogs, as it applies in this situation, violates the Strata Property Act.

      For this gesture, the strata earned the praise of tribunal member Devyn Cousineau.

      “I commend the Strata for the compassionate and pragmatic approach it has taken to this matter,” Cousineau wrote in reasons for decision.

      Cousineau related that the girl’s parent asked the strata to exempt her daughter from the no-dog bylaw.

      Responding to this request, the strata presented owners with two motions at a 2019 annual general meeting.

      The motions proposed either amending the bylaws to allow one dog or authorizing the strata council to grant exemptions to the no-dog policy for medical reasons.

      “Both motions failed,” Cousineau recalled. “As a result, the Strata told the Parent it could not make an exemption to the bylaw.”

      The parent then filed a complaint before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

      The parent alleged that strata’s refusal to exempt her daughter from the no‐dog bylaw violates Section 8 of the B.C. Human Rights Code.

      That section of the law states that a person must not be denied any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public based on a number of grounds, including physical or mental disability.

      Cousineau related that the 14-year-old girl has Type 1 diabetes, and mental health disabilities related to childhood trauma.

      The trauma was in connection with her experience with an “abusive father”.

      “Throughout the 2018‐2019 school year, she experienced escalating symptoms of depression and anxiety, which impeded her ability to manage her diabetes and manifested in suicidal ideation,” the tribunal member wrote.

      The girl “identified that a dog may help her manage her disabilities, and her doctor agreed”.

      The parent and the girl got a dog at the end of July 2019.

      “The Parent says that the Daughter’s condition improved almost immediately,” Cousineau wrote.

      While the girl previously was reluctant in leaving the house or doing much of anything, she was now “taking the dog to the park, playing with her and laughing”.

      “She was cuddling with her and confiding in her. Her spirits were uplifted,” Cousineau related what the parent has said.

      The tribunal member also cited what the girl wrote about her dog.

      “Sometimes if I am sad or crying in my room she looks at me and leans on me and sometimes believe it or not, I talk to her about things that I don’t talk to anyone about and it feels like she is listening to me with her eyes locked in mine,” the girl wrote.

      According to the girl, with regular counselling and the presence of her dog, she feels a “lot better now and able to focus on school”.

      “This dog has helped me through the tough dark time of my life when nothing else was motivating enough to keep going and I cannot imagine my life without her,” the girl wrote.