Montreal man loses apartment over emotional support Doberman; lodges human rights complaint
MONTREAL -- A Montreal man has made a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission after he was denied an apartment because the building management found his emotional support dog to be too big.
Damiano Raveenthiran says his seven-month-old Doberman puppy, Cash, is his best friend and therapy dog.
“He really helps me a lot with the regulation of my day, routine. I suffer with insomnia. He’s very good at getting me to sleep and waking me up at the right time,” he said.
While he said Cash is loving and not aggressive, the animal has caused him some stress. Earlier this month, Raveenthiran found a three-bedroom apartment in LaSalle. He and his wife passed a credit check and were told they could have it. But then the landlord asked about his dog.
“We told them that we have a Doberman that’s going to be around 70 pounds by the time we move into the apartment. He called us back and said the owner of the building doesn’t want a 70-pound Doberman in there,” he said.
Raveenthiran told the landlord Cash was his therapy animal, and showed a letter from a mental health counsellor, but the landlord still refused to let him rent.
“One of the things that the person said was that if we had a 20-pound dog, that would have been ok, but a 70-pound dog is not.”
The landlord said he made commitments to several elderly tenants that there won’t be any large animals in the building.
“A Doberman and a Rottweiler are two species that have been known to be attack dogs,” said Joe Levine, president of Dubelle Developments. “They could be vicious. I don’t know this animal.”
Raveenthiran has complained to the Human Rights Commission, but groups that work with service animals believe he won’t have an easy case.
“There’s no legislation that talks about emotional support animals,” said John Agionicolaitis of The Asista Foundation, which provides service dogs for people with PTSD, autism and disabilities.
The laws are clear for service pets such as seeing-eye dogs: if an owner could show proof of specific training, a landlord can’t refuse them.
But, Agionicolaitis added, there is no legal requirement to accommodate emotional support animals.
“In Quebec the term ‘emotional support animal’ is not recognized. If you have an emotional support dog, nothing stops the landlord or the people responsible for administering the complex to refuse that right to the person,” he said.
Raveenthiran said he hopes his case will lead the way to the law being changed.