A large ‘companion’ dog in the middle of the fight between a tenant and a condo board
CTV News Ottawa
Joanne Schnurr
06 June 2016

A man with incurable cancer is fighting to keep his dog at his Ottawa condo. The condo board says the large dog is against the rules and given him until the end of June to get rid of the dog or face legal action.

The rules of the condo prohibit a pet weighting more than 22 pounds. Fernando de Diego argues his dog isn't a pet; it's a companion to help him deal with his illness.

Fernando De Diego laughs as his big black dog Tadeo licks his face.  Tadeo has been part of de Diego"s life since September, a few months after he was diagnosed with an incurable cancer.

“He’s a good companion for the moment when I am a little bit low,” says de Diego, a professor at the University of Ottawa.

“He won’t leave his side,” says de Diego’s partner Karem Langer of the Border Collie-Labrador mix, “he always licks his hands, sits beside him on the couch.”

About a month ago, de Diego and his partner got a letter from the condo board of the building at 70 Landry, telling them the dog contravened the condo rules because it weighed more than 22 pounds.

“The Board has considered your request and has reviewed the documentation you have provided,” the letter, dated June 1, read, “The Board is not satisfied that the situation described in your letter requires a dog weighing more than 22 pounds to meet Mr. de Diego’s described need for a companion dog.”

The letter went on to say that the “dog must be permanently removed from the unit prior to June 29” or the couple would face legal action.

“If they reconsider their position,” says Langer, “they will show that they can understand other human beings in the neighborhood.”

Dogs are allowed in the building; larger dogs were even grandfathered, providing their owners had them before November 30, 2012.

“I don't think there's a danger of the rest of the tenants allowing this rule to be broken when there are special circumstances,” says tenant Lyle Makosky, “but I do appreciate the pressure the board is under to apply a standard.”

The condo corporation board says there have been a dozen complaints and the dog has to go.

“We have a rule, we enforce it with everyone,” says board chair Kathryn Butler Malette, “we've had others ask to make an exception; we have never done that and don't intend to do that.”

Butler Malette says she only learned of de Diego’s incurable condition through CTV Ottawa and says it’s frustrating board members seem to be getting only half the story from the couple.

“I would have expected if there was a medical reason for her to have this dog; that she would have raised this at get-go, not when she gets a letter, telling her the dog is too big and has to go.”

The board says it has already given the couple three extensions on that deadline.  They are moving in the next month or two to the U.S. where Langer will work at a university.  If they return, they will face the same fight with the condo board since leaving Tadeo behind isn't in the cards.

“I don’t think that’s an option for us,” says Langer with finality.

The couple points to the condo building next door that allows any size dog; an identical building but different condo board.  One of those tenants has offered to take the dog in until the couple moves.

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