After a long fight, cat in Toronto condo is legal
A Toronto woman's right to keep her elderly cat in her condominium has been upheld in a court case that the losing lawyer says has implications for countless condos.
The building's condominium board, which developed a belated interest in enforcing a no-pets provision in 2004, dragged the case through two courts and tried to take it to the Supreme Court of Canada.
But on Thursday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the board's appeal and ordered it to pay Nancy Staib's legal costs.
That means the fight is over and Staib's cat, Casey, can stay in her Queen's Quay apartment on Toronto's waterfront.
The cat, which has lived there for a dozen years, will be 14 in May, she told CBC Online.
Staib, 50, is a CBC human-resources employee. She said the battle began after the board sent warning letters to residents who had pets.
"I didn't do anything, and then they decided to take me to court."
'Sane people do not go to the Supreme Court of Canada to evict a cat'
The board's lawyer, Mark Arnold, said the case was pursued to defend a basic condition written into the condominium corporation's charter.
"This is not a cat case," he told CBC Online. "Sane people do not go to the Supreme Court of Canada to evict a cat."
Arnold stressed that the no-animals rule was not enacted by the board but was built into the legal structure of the condominium. It was meant to assure buyers who were allergic to cats, for example, that there would be none in the building, he said.
He said the outcome of the case means condo boards across Ontario will have to police all conditions of their charters energetically or lose the right to do so.
'She was aware of the "no pets" provision'
The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case means the board must abide by decisions that went against it in 2005 in Ontario Superior Court and the Ontario Court of Appeal.
In the lower courts, the case turned partly on whether the board of Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corporation No. 949 was blocked from enforcing the rule because of undue delay or negligence in asserting its right.
In a summary, Supreme Court officials laid out these facts:
"Staib moved into her condominium in March of 1994. At the time, she had her cat. She was aware of the 'no pets' provision when she moved in.
"However, she was never asked to remove her cat until 2004. By this time, her cat was almost 12 years old and essentially unadoptable.
"[The condo board] claimed that they first learned of the existence of the cat when their maintenance people went in to Staib's unit in 2004, yet the [Ontario Superior Court] judge found uncontradicted evidence that the maintenance people had been in her unit throughout the 10-year period."
The board was ready to bear the expense of an appeal to the highest court in the land after its case was dismissed by that judge and by a three-judge Ontario appeal panel.
As is customary, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for its decision not to hear the case.
Staib said she has yet to receive a bill from her lawyer and doesn't know how much money, if any, she'll have to pay out of her own pocket.