Administrative Housing Tribunal | Autistic girl can keep her dog

A girl with autism spectrum disorder will be able to keep her dog despite the refusal of the owner of the building where she lives, has ruled the Administrative Housing Tribunal.

Posted at 12:00 a.m.

Alice Girard-Bosse

Alice Girard-Bosse
The Press

“I am really relieved to be able to keep the dog. Olivia is very happy too,” exclaimed Larissa Jean-Baptiste, mother of the young girl. For months, Jean-Baptiste was fighting so that his 11-year-old daughter could keep her little dog in their accommodation in Verdun, where they had lived for nine years.

A few years earlier, a social worker had suggested the family adopt a dog to reduce the stress and anxiety of their daughter Olivia, who has autism spectrum disorder. But the steps to obtain an assistance dog had proven to be arduous. “Waiting lists for all programs were closed. We couldn’t even register,” says Larissa Jean-Baptiste.

This is particularly the case of Mira’s service dog program for children with autism spectrum disorder.

We closed the list two years ago because there was already a four-year wait.

Sara Pontbriand, communications manager at the Mira Foundation

Same story for Les Chiens Togo, which offers its services to people with generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or autism spectrum. “We currently have too many families and beneficiaries waiting and until our list is reduced, we will not be able to accept new people in our program”, can we read in an automatic message in response to the email. of The Press.

A discharge deemed abusive

In September 2020, after months of research, a friend of the family offered them Mafalda, a small senior dog of the Yorkshire breed. Olivia was delighted. “For an autistic child, predictability is important, so the fact that she already knew the dog, that she had met him before and that she loved him, it was already very advantageous for her,” says Jean Baptiste.

At the time, the social worker suggested a calm, medium-sized dog that the girl could hug. Mafalda met all the criteria. The mother therefore hastened to notify their owner by email of the adoption of the canine. “She immediately said no and invited me to find other accommodation,” she recalls.

Mme Jean-Baptiste offered to provide him with the medical documents proving the benefits for his daughter of obtaining the animal. In response, the landlady asked her for a $2,500 deposit instead, the woman said.

She didn’t want us to mess up the floor. I inquired about my rights and saw that it was not legal.

Larissa Jean-Baptiste

The owner would have said she was ready to accept the animal, provided that the family signs a discharge, supports the woman. Several clauses were stipulated there, in particular the obligation to have the floor sanded and varnished when he left the apartment. In case of death of the animal, the tenant could not replace it unless having obtained the owner’s authorization again.

For meme Jean-Baptiste, there was no question of signing this discharge, which she considered abusive. After discussions with the Office des personnes Handicapés du Québec and the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, she decided to take steps with the Tribunal administratif du logement.

Legal victory

At the end of April, the verdict fell. Young Olivia has obtained the right to keep her dog, to the delight of the whole family.

In the decision, that The Press consulted, it is stipulated that “the landlord allows the tenants to keep their Yorkshire breed dog for the needs of their daughter living with the autism spectrum. The tenants may replace the animal without the landlord’s authorization with a dog of equivalent size or with a breed of dog recommended by specialists or professionals working with people living with the autism spectrum.

“I won the dog for my daughter, but I also won peace of mind,” rejoices Mme Jean-Baptiste, recalling that the steps were not easy.

This story made me sick. It’s already very stressful and demanding to have an autistic child. All these steps gave me anxiety, stomach aches and insomnia.

Larissa Jean-Baptiste

She hopes her story can help other families.

“I want my actions to help all other parents of children with autism or disabilities, so that they do not have to experience abuse or discrimination from their owner,” she concludes.

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