In Queensland, disagreements around pets in strata schemes are one of the number one issues the BCCM deals with. Most bodies corporate have a by-law that requires approval from the committee before an animal can be brought onto the scheme land. Whether a refusal is unreasonable or oppressive under section 180 of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (Qld) (BCCMA) is what is usually discussed and debated. However, in this newsletter we will be looking at situations where the animal would not need any committee approval, even if it says so in the by-laws.
What exemptions exist?
If your scheme’s by-laws stipulate that an animal needs approval from the Committee, then generally you will need to seek approval. However, there is a statutory exemption for guide, hearing and assistance dogs.
Exemption for guide, hearing and assistance dogs
The exemption for guide, hearing and assistance dogs exists in the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 (Qld) (Act). Section 8 of the Act states that, despite any other law, a person with a disability who relies on the guide, hearing or assistance dog may be accompanied by that dog. Therefore, a by-law can not prohibit or require committee approval for a guide, hearing, or assistance dog to come onto scheme land. However, a person can not simply call their dog an assistance dog in order to be exempt. There is criteria that needs to be met.
Criteria that needs to be met
The dog and the person claiming to be exempt must meet certain criteria, being that:
- The person has a disability as defined in section 5 the Act;
- The person relies on a guide, hearing or assistance dog to reduce the person’s need for support; and
- The animal has passed the Public Access Test and has been certified by an approved trainer as a guide, hearing or assistance dog under sections 36, 37 or 38 respectively.
The handler of the dog should also be given a handler’s identity card to confirm they meet the criteria.
No exemption for companion or therapy dogs
Guide, hearing or assistance dogs are not the same as therapy/emotional support/companion dogs. Such dogs do not meet the criteria to be exempt under the Act. The owner may not have a disability and/or the dog has not been trained to specifically assist in reducing the person’s need for support. Therapy, emotional support and companion dogs would need to follow the approval process outlined in the scheme’s by-laws.
What to do if someone is claiming an exemption
If you are on a committee and an occupant is claiming an exemption, it is important you treat them with respect at all times. It is an offence under the Act to refuse entry to any part of the property because of the guide, hearing or assistance dog.
The handler should be able to identify themselves through the prescribed identification procedure found in section 12 of the Act. This consists of:
- Having the identity card displayed, or be able to produce it for viewing when asked; and
- Having the dog wear a harness or coat that states if the dog is a guide, hearing or assistance dog, or a dog in training.
If the occupant indicates that the dog is not a guide, hearing or assistance dog, or is not in training, then the occupant should seek approval for the animal pursuant to the by-laws.
However, it is important that committee members are aware of the implications under section 180 of the BCCMA before refusing a pet application. See our newsletter on pet approvals in bodies corporate for more information.
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