Pets are an important part of many people’s lives, and many condo owners and occupants keep pets in their units. Unfortunately, pets and animals can sometimes lead to conflict within the condo community.
These issues most often arise when owners and occupants of condo units do not comply with the condo corporation’s governing documents (i.e. the corporation’s declaration, by-laws, and rules).
To ensure that owners, occupants and their pets can live together harmoniously, many condos have provisions in the corporation’s declaration or rules that limit the types, number, or breed of pets or animals that can be kept. Some even prohibit pets altogether.
Most often, pet disputes relate to what these documents say, what they mean and how they are enforced.
Examples of common issues with pets or animals include:
- Keeping pets or animals that are not allowed under the condo corporation’s governing documents.
- A pet or animal is causing a disturbance.
- Owners or occupants not cleaning up after their pet or animal.
- Owners or occupants keeping a pet or animal that is dangerous or illegal, such as a poisonous snake.
How do my condo corporation’s governing documents apply?
Every condo owner and occupant is required to comply with the Condominium Act, 1998 (the Condo Act), and with the condo corporation’s governing documents (i.e. its declaration, by-laws, and rules).
If you are having an issue with someone else’s pet, or if you received a complaint about your pet, you should start by reviewing your condo corporation’s governing documents. If your condo corporation has provisions in its governing documents relating to pets, they are most likely to be found in the declaration or in the rules.
By reviewing these documents, you can determine what is and isn’t allowed in your condo corporation. For example, your condo corporation’s governing documents may contain provisions that:
- Prohibit keeping any pets or animals in the condo corporation.
- Limit the type or species of pets or animals you can keep.
- Limit the number of pets or animals that you can keep.
- Prohibit keeping animals that exceed a certain weight or size limit (e.g. dogs must be less than 40 pounds).
- Limit where you can keep your pets or animals (e.g. you may be prohibited from keeping or walking your animal on your balcony or on other common elements).
- Require you to leash or otherwise keep control of your pet or animal while in the common elements (e.g. requiring you to use a leash or carrier when travelling with your pet or animal).
Depending on the issue, you may also want review your corporation’s governing documents for other provisions that might be relevant, even if those rules do not specifically mention pets. For example, your condo corporation might have rules that prohibit:
- Noises at certain times,
- Certain activities at certain times, or
- Interfering with the ability of a neighbour to enjoy their property.
Don’t have a copy of your condo corporation’s declaration, by-laws or rules?
You can request a copy from your condo corporation using the mandatory Request for Records form, available on the CAO website
A condo corporation’s governing documents are required to be consistent with the Condo Act. In addition, a condo corporation’s by-laws and rules must be consistent with the declaration and must be reasonable.
How does the Condo Act apply?
Under section 17 of the Condo Act, condo corporations are required to enforce compliance with the Condo Act and with the condo corporation’s governing documents. If an owner or occupant does not comply, then another owner or the condo corporation may take legal action against them, including filing an application with the Condominium Authority Tribunal.
Under the Condo Act, all owners and occupants are required to take steps to prevent dangerous situations from occurring. This applies regardless of what your corporation’s governing documents say. If a pet or other animal is likely to be a danger to others or to cause damage, you should not keep that pet in the condo corporation.
Service animals are working animals that assist persons with disabilities. Service animals are not pets.
The right to a service animal is protected under the Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the Code). That means that condo corporations must accommodate people with service animals to the point of undue hardship. For more information on the duty to accommodate, visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s website.
Dogs are the most common type of service animals. Service animals provide a variety of assistance. They may lead a person with a visual disability (like a guide dog), or they may help a person who has post-traumatic stress disorder (like an emotional support animal).
According to the Customer Service Standards set out under the Accessibility for Ontarian’s With Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), one of two conditions must apply for an animal to be considered a service animal:
- The animal is easily identifiable as relating to a disability (e.g. a guide dog or other animal wearing a vest or harness).
- The owner can provide documentation from a regulated health professional confirming the animal is required due to a disability.
Under the Code and the AODA, service animals do not need to have certificates or identity cards.
However, people keeping service animals in condo corporations may be asked to provide acceptable documentation, especially if that animal would otherwise be prohibited by the governing documents. Acceptable documentation includes:
- Documentation from a regulated health professional
- An identification card from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General for people who are blind and use a guide dog
Looking for more information on service animals?
Depending on where you live, there may also be municipal by-laws dealing with pets and animals. It is common for municipalities to have by-laws limiting the number of pets you can keep. Also, the city of Toronto has a bylaw that prohibits keeping certain types of animals, as does the city of Ottawa.
Many condo corporations have provisions in their governing documents that require owners and occupants to comply with all municipal by-laws. Often, a condo corporation’s governing documents and a municipal by-law will prohibit the same things.
That may not always be the case, though. If something is permitted under a by-law, the corporation may still prohibit it under the condo corporation’s governing documents. The same is true in reverse, and sometimes the municipal by-laws will prohibit things that the governing documents allow.
For example, you may be allowed to have up to three animals under a municipal bylaw, but your condo corporation may have a rule limiting the number of dogs to two.
If you have any questions about whether a municipal by-law applies to you, contact your municipality.