Quebec condo owner told her emotional support husky is too heavy
A woman living north of Montreal is in a battle with her condo association after the board found that the two-year-old husky she adopted from the SPCA to help with mental issues is over the weight limit.
Sarah Michaud-Allard suffers from anxiety and depression and adopted a husky mix named Princess three months ago rather than purchase a costly service dog, which she found could cost over $20,000.
"It's too expensive for me," she told CJAD 800 Radio's Andrew Carter. "It made much more sense to go to the SPCA, try to find a dog that could match what I need and get [her] trained to become my service dog."
The only problem is that Princess is 35 pounds, 10 pounds over the condo's limit.
Michaud-Allard said that when she purchased the condo in Saint-Jerome two years ago and signed the contract with the condo board, she had a copy of the old rules, which didn't say anything about a dog's weight limit.
She didn't notice that the rule regarding dog weight had changed when the new rules were sent to her electronically.
"When they forwarded me the new condo rules, in my head, it didn't click that they were different," said Michaud-Allard.
When she received the lawyer's letter from the condo association, Michaud-Allard said she suffered serious panic attacks.
"I was on the floor, unable to breathe," she said. "Many times, I was on the phone with my family telling them I was so overwhelmed, I didn't know what to do... Then I would feel my dog come lick my face, paw at me. She would touch her nose all over my body to try to make me react and then she would just lay down next to me instinctively."
It is not the first time a tenant in Quebec has had an issue with a building's management due to their emotional support dog being too large. Damiano Raveenthiran filed a human rights complaint in 2021 after he was denied an apartment because the building management found his 70-pound Doberman, Cash, was too big and either he or the animal had to go.
John Agionicolaitis works at The Asista Foundation, which provides service dogs for people with PTSD, autism and disabilities. He told CTV News at the time that there is no legislation that references emotional support animals like there is for seeing-eye dogs and other service animals.
"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.
Michaud-Allard admits that Princess sometimes barks, particularly when other smaller dogs are near, but that her behaviour is improving.
"With obedience training, she calmed down quite a bit," she said.
She said not everyone in the building is trying to make her do something about the animal.
"Some people don't mind," she said, adding that a person on the condo board made a complaint.
Michaud-Allard said she forwarded paperwork to the condo board showing that Princess is being trained to become registered as a service dog as well as notes from her doctor.
"Just to show that I'm not making it up," she said. "It's really a medical reason."
Michaud-Allard and her fiance have forwarded all their documents to the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
"I'm just trying to get better. I need the tools to try to do that," she said.
With reporting from Andrew Carter at CJAD 800 Radio.