Here’s a little news story that borders on the barbaric.
RÚV had a report this weekend about a woman in Akranes [southwest Iceland] whose neighbour is insisting that she get rid of her guide dog. The woman lives in an apartment building, and according to Icelandic law everyone in the building needs to be in agreement if permission is to be granted for someone to keep a dog or cat.
The woman has had severely restricted vision and hearing since birth, and moreover suffers from a lack of balance since having a brain tumor removed. Three years ago she obtained permission from all her neighbours to keep the dog; however, now someone new has moved into the building and wants the dog gone. The woman is unable to sell her apartment and indeed has very limited resources to move at all.
There are a few things about this story that boggle the mind. First and most obviously, that anyone could be so heartless as to insist on a seeing-eye dog being removed from a building. Secondly, why Icelandic laws don’t make exceptions for seeing-eye dogs in situations like this. If I’m not mistaken, that is the case in other countries where I have lived [at least in Canada] — guide dogs aren’t considered “pets” in the strictest sense of the word and are allowed to go where “regular” dogs are not. Third, why the law — if it has to be this way — doesn’t stipulate that, once the permission for a pet has been granted, it cannot be revoked. [To be honest, I was under the impression that this was the case.]
The upside of this story is that the woman’s plight has received an outpouring of support from the general public. Most of the Icelandic media has covered it in one form or another, and a Facebook support group established yesterday already has around 6,500 members in it.
The housing collective* in the woman’s building allegedly held a meeting about the matter yesterday, but she’s not yet heard whether or not she is allowed to keep the dog. Incredible that one freaking neighbour should be able to wield such power over someone’s life.
* Not sure what the English word is for húsfélag — the group of property owners that meet to make decisions on the collective property, etc. Anyone?