Woman wins discrimination claim over assistance dog in unit
A WOMAN who was kicked out of her Gold Coast rental unit because she was not allowed to keep her assistance dog has won a discrimination case and compensation.
Marjorie Jackson, her husband and her assistance cavoodle Muffin ended up living "hand to mouth'' in an old bus, in campsites, caravan parks and with relatives and friends.
"If it hadn't been for Muffin I think I would have died through stress,'' Mrs Jackson told Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The tribunal found Mrs Jackson was directly and indirectly discriminated against by real estate agency Ocean Blue Queensland and charity Medi-Aid Centre Foundation.
They were ordered to pay her $13,155 compensation for stress, humiliation and loss of dignity and to cover costs of storage and caravan park accommodation.
Mrs Jackson has suffered from chronic depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder since losing everything in the global financial crisis, the tribunal heard.
After a doctor suggested she get an assistance dog, she bought her cavoodle Muffin, with her daughter's help, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.
The Jacksons lived from 2014 to 2017 at Medi-Aid's low cost accommodation within Seacrest apartment complex at Surfers Paradise.
The tribunal member accepted that at a body corporate meeting the chairman said they could not refuse Mrs Jackson's application to keep her assistance dog in the "no pets'' building.
Mrs Jackson said she later went to Ocean Blue's real estate office, carrying Muffin in a carrier, to have her lease amended, so she could keep Muffin.
She alleged when she told Ocean Blue director George Georgiou that Muffin was an assistance dog he said: "Even if you .. needed a seeing eye dog you wouldn't have a unit''.
Two months later the Jacksons were told they had breached the tenancy agreement by keeping a dog and then were given a notice to leave Seacrest.
The Anti-Discrimination Act covers discrimination against a person who relies on an assistance dog.
Mrs Jackson had put Muffin in a puppy school, paid $150 to enrol the dog in a psychiatric service dog training program and had started a house training course.
The tribunal member accepted that Muffin was an assistance dog, trained to do physical tasks to help Mrs Jackson and able to sense when she was upset or anxious.
The little dog was trained to jump on her chest, to distract or comfort her and help reduce anxiety and panic attacks.
When her husband Kevin suggested that Muffin might have to go, because they could not risk losing their accommodation, Mrs Jackson cried all day, the tribunal heard.
Mrs Jackson said after they were evicted she felt "like an outcast''.
"We knew what happened was so wrong and unjust,'' Mrs Jackson said.
The tribunal member did not accept claims that Medi-Aid and Ocean Blue were unaware that Muffin was an assistance dog.
The member found Mrs Jackson was discriminated against in being evicted from her unit because of her reliance on an assistance dog.
It was also found that she was not able to comply with the "no pets'' term imposed by Medi-Aid, which was a form of indirect discrimination.