Sometimes tenants require the assistance and support of an animal. Are landlords required to accommodate a tenant with an assistance or support animal? Well, part of the answer depends on the type of animal involved: does the situation involve a disabled tenant with a qualified service or guide dog, or is this some other type of animal like a companion, emotional support or therapy animal?
In Alberta, the right of a disabled or blind person to use a service or guide dog is protected by both the Service Dogs Act and Blind Persons’ Rights Act. Landlords cannot discriminate against disabled and blind persons with a qualified service or guide dog, provided that the person can control the dog’s behavior. Landlords who discriminate against or deny occupancy of a dwelling unit to a person with a service or guide dog are guilty of an offence and can be fined up to $3,000.
Tip: Service dogs are qualified dogs trained as a guide for disabled persons. Guide dogs are a type of qualified service dog trained as a guide for blind people. Both types of dogs must meet qualification requirements under the law.The right of a disabled or blind person to use a service or guide dog is also protected by the Alberta Human Rights Act. Landlords have a duty to accommodate disabled persons with a qualified service or guide dog to the point of undue hardship. This means making adjustments or providing alternate arrangements to meet the needs of disabled tenants. Some of the factors that are considered in undue hardship include: financial costs of the accommodation, health and safety concerns and substantial interference with other people. Undue hardship is a difficult standard to meet. Generally, landlords must provide some level of accommodation for disabled tenants with service or guide dogs.
On the other hand, there are also other types of animals that provide assistance and support to people, for example, companion animals, therapy animals and emotional support animals. Companion animals, which are also known as “pets”, are a type of animal kept for pleasure. Therapy animals are animals used by therapists for short-term therapy. Emotional support animals are typically used for providing support to people with mental illness or chronic illness. Companion, emotional and therapy animals can be any type of animal really … you’ve probably heard about people having therapy or emotional support dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits and even chickens.
Unlike service and guide dogs though, companion, emotional and therapy animals are not covered by existing provincial legislation in Alberta. However, the law is still developing in this area. For example, under human rights law, there may be a duty to accommodate disabled persons with these other types of animals. Another development to look out for is changes to municipal bylaws. For example, the City of Calgary recently approved amendments to its Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw to allow individuals (with a permit) to keep livestock as Emotional Support Animals within the city. The City of Calgary expects to implement the permit process in early 2019.
For more information, refer to CPLEA’s Renting with Support & Assistance Animals resource: https://www.cplea.ca/wp-content/uploads/AssistanceSupportAnimals.pdf
This article is part of the “Accommodation in Tenancy” series, which looks at emerging tenancy issues with a human rights lens. Stay tuned for the next article of the series, which will cover hoarding disorder.