Lessons From New South Wales, Queensland, and British Columbia to Assist South Africa in Adequately Regulating the Keeping of Assistance Animals by Disabled Persons in Sectional Title Schemes

Author: CG van der Merwe

ISSN: 1996-2193
Affiliations: BA LLB (UOFS) BA (Hons) and BCL (Oxon) LLD (UNISA), Research Fellow, Department of Private Law, Stellenbosch University; Emeritus Professor of Civil Law, University of Aberdeen
Source: Stellenbosch Law Review, Volume 33 Issue 3, 2022, p. 419 – 437


South African legislation contains only one subrule in the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Regulations about the keeping of assistance animals in sectional title schemes. This subrule provides that an owner or occupier suffering from a disability who reasonably requires a guide, hearing, or assistance dog must be considered to have the trustees’ consent to keep that animal in a section and to accompany it on the common property. I submit that this subrule falls hopelessly short of regulating this matter adequately and that lessons in this regard can be learned from the comparable Australian jurisdictions of New South Wales and Queensland, and the Canadian jurisdiction of British Columbia. First, this subrule makes no reference to anti-discrimination legislation or legislation dealing with the keeping of dogs which is found in the comparable provisions in the selected jurisdictions. Second, no clear distinction is drawn between service dogs and assistance dogs. It appears that assistance dogs are equated with service dogs which are trained to cater for a specific disability in a disabled person while those suffering from illnesses like depression could also benefit from the mere presence of a dog without any specific training. Third, the rule applies only to assistance dogs while the United States, for example, also provides for miniature horses and Capuchin monkeys to assist persons with disabilities. Fourth, save for guide and hearing dogs, inadequate provision is made for the training of other types of assistance animals. In some cases, disabled persons are allowed to train their own assistance animals without the animal and the disabled person having to comply with strict competency tests, for example, the “public access test” required in Queensland. Finally, there is no agreement regarding what type of disability would qualify for assistance by an assistance animal or what evidence a disabled owner or occupier must provide as proof that he or she reasonably requires an assistance animal.