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Laval woman with health condition faces eviction over dog trained to help her function

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A Laval woman is facing eviction because of her dog as she faces a long journey to try to get the animal certified.

Lisa Smith suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that causes spinal inflammation.

She said she wouldn't be able to function without her dog, Kenya.

"I can't get out of bed easily and when I first wake up, my dog is trained to get a pull toy. She pulls me out of bed, she gets me my slippers," she said.

Her health condition causes back and arm stiffness. One of Kenya's biggest jobs is picking up items off the floor.

"I have the 'dropsies,' especially with my left hand and I drop everything. She's picking up pens, she's picking up spoons, she's picking up my glasses," Smith explained.

She got Kenya about a year ago and trained her to perform these tasks.

Lisa Smith's dog, Kenya. (CTV News)

Smith has a doctor's note saying she needs a service dog and has a letter from Laval's regional health board saying her dog is docile and obedient.

Kenya's food and vet bills are covered by Quebec's workplace health and safety board, the CNESST.

Despite that, Smith is still waiting to get Kenya's official certification papers.

Lisa Smith suffers from ankylosing spondylitis and says her dog, Kenya, helps her function (CTV News)

According to disability rights group RAPLIQ, certifications are only given under specific circumstances.

"If you don't have that certification that proves that the dog is well trained and well behaved and okay to give the service it's supposed to give. It's not everybody who can train a service dog," said Steven Laperriere, general manager of RAPLIQ.

He said that training, which has to be carried out by an organization, can take 15 to 18 months.

Smith said she can't wait that long. She's received a letter from her landlord saying she's facing eviction because she has the dog and two cats.

CTV News reached out to the landlord but has yet to hear back.

"I'm not sleeping at night. I'm a stress bag. And when I get stressed out, it exasperates my disease," she said.

Under Quebec's Charter of Rights, a tenant cannot be evicted because of a service animal, but Laperriere said there is a lot of confusion about what constitutes one and what training organizations are reputable. Laperriere said there should be more government regulation.

Smith is now worried others are in a similar situation.

"I'm fighting because nobody should have to go through this, especially a single woman living alone," she said.

Smith said she hopes to move because, on top of her condition, she's stressed out about the dog that helps her every day being recognized.  

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