Woman with Alzheimer’s disease risks losing dog she relies on due to condo policy
Donna Davidson's service dog Kaos leads her to and from her husband’s care home. The Sheltie is able to do this because he was trained by her son Murray.
"He knows exactly where we've been and exactly where we come back,” Donna said.
Donna needs Kaos’ help because she's living with Alzheimer’s disease, an illness that often causes problems with memory and direction.
"I just feel better knowing that if she's out anywhere, the dog knows how to get home, and she will always get home," said Murray Davidson, Donna’s son.
But soon, Kaos may not be able to stay in Donna’s home. Her condo has a strict no pets policy, and the condo board is insisting the animal be removed.
Murray believes that rule shouldn't apply here.
"This animal isn't a pet," Murray said. "I had him registered with Service Dogs of Canada, as the law stated. I provided a doctor’s note stating the necessity of having this animal."
The condo board said if Kaos was a legitimate service dog meeting Assistance Dogs International’s standards, it would welcome the animal. But the board simply doesn't believe Kaos is a legitimate service dog.
"We've asked for proof," said the condo board’s chair Bruce Macfarlane. "Because we can't make the final decision without evidence, and he declines to provide that."
The Manitoba Human Rights Commission said for an animal to be considered a service dog, it must be trained to assist a person with a disability, and the work performed by the dog must be directly related to its owner's physical or mental disability.
But they do not have to be accredited by any specific organization.
"In Manitoba, there's no regulated scheme to identify and certify service animals," said Isha Khan, Executive Director of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. "Some provinces have gone that route, but Manitoba has not."
Certified master trainer George Leonard said national standards would eliminate some of the confusion over which animals truly qualify as service dogs.
"It is coming," said Leonard. "I think it's definitely needed."
But it isn't in place yet, leaving Kaos facing a court ordered enforcement of the building's no pet bylaw.
A complaint on the issue has been filed with the Human Rights Commission. An adjudicator could end up making the final call if Kaos qualifies as a service dog or not and therefore, if the dog can stay with Donna.