Pet owners at CityPlace are fighting back against a ban on new animals in two of the condominium towers in the development, located north of Lake Shore Blvd. W. near Spadina Ave.
“We believe the ban can set a really dangerous precedent,” said Jen Fischer, who has launched a petition to challenge the rule, passed in 2016 by the Harbour View Estates condo board that oversees 3 Navy Wharf Crt. and 5 Mariner Terrace.
Residents were required last year to register their existing pets at the management office. This month, signs went up reminding owners that no new pets are being permitted in the buildings, and unregistered pets must be removed.
The rule covers cats, dogs, reptiles, rodents and birds.
Fischer said she had to find a new home for a dog she was fostering, although her own pet is registered and can stay.
“We thought it was a dog-inclusive, pet-friendly facility,” said Fischer, pointing out that the two buildings have a dog run. She has started a petition as part of an attempt to reverse the rule.
Michael Spears, a lawyer representing the condo corporation, wrote in an email that there is a procedure under the Condo Act “authorizing the board of directors to pass a rule to promote the welfare of the owners and to prevent interference with the use and enjoyment of the units and common elements.”
Such rules, he said, become effective 30 days after notice is given, unless the board receives a requisition (official order) signed by a minimum of 15 per cent of the unit owners requesting a meeting to discuss. Unit owners were sent notice in July 2016, but the pet rule was deferred until August 2018. No requisition was received and so it went into effect, he added.
“Once a rule has been validly passed, the board has a statutory duty under the act to enforce the rule,” Spears wrote. “The board has not seen or received any ‘new’ petition concerning the Pet Rule and until it does, no further comment can be provided.”
Fischer and others says there is a deep divide at CityPlace between dog owners and residents who don’t own dogs. In April, CityPlace made the news after a video of a heated exchange between dog owners and a resident was posted to the community’s Facebook page.
“The tension between dog owners and non-dog owners at City Place is long-standing and cuts across the entire community,” says Gary Pieters, president of the CityPlace Residents’ Association.
“Obviously there is strong feeling from both sides,” he said.
While irresponsible pet owners are a minority, Pieters has heard complaints of dogs loose in areas where children play and of dogs urinating and defecating in common areas.
“Those might be exceptions but they still create tensions,” he said.
Pieters said the policy was adopted in 2016 by the condo corporation, but implementation was delayed for a year and enforcement did not begin until recently. Pieters said that in 2016 some residents tried to gather enough signatures to call a meeting to challenge the rule, but did not garner enough support.
Dean Maher, who is running for the Green party in Spadina-Fort York in the upcoming federal election, said there are other ways the condo board could have policed problem dogs without having to resort to a ban — including following up with offenders caught on security cameras. Some condos even keep records of dog DNA and use to it track the owners of dogs who don’t clean up after their canine companions, Maher said.
“There are other tools. I just don’t understand why people would take such an extreme measure,” said Maher, who sold his unit at CityPlace this spring, after 16 years of ownership.
“It’s unbelievable such a policy would exist. It infringes on the definition of a family in Toronto, in a city where there is increasing loneliness and more people living alone.”
Condominiums can create rules restricting the number of pets, but are not permitted to prohibit pets entirely unless it’s part of the condo’s declaration — also known as the master deed — that establishes the existence of the condo and governs the use and maintenance of the property, according to Josh Milgrom, an associate at Lash Condo Law.
“Rules have to be reasonable to be valid and enforceable,” he said.
Milgrom said if pet owners fail to persuade the board to overturn the decision, they could also resort to the courts.
“A rule prohibiting pets entirely is something that does seem questionable,” Milgrom said.
With files from May Warren
Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF