B.C. teen with social anxiety emerges victorious in battle with city hall to keep support puppy

·3 min read
Hailey Fiddes, 16, now has approval from the City of Kamloops to keep her pup Tiny after arguing that, despite there being more than the maximum number of allowable dogs in her household, the newest addition is a support animal and not just a pet. (Submitted by Hailey Fiddes - image credit)
Hailey Fiddes, 16, now has approval from the City of Kamloops to keep her pup Tiny after arguing that, despite there being more than the maximum number of allowable dogs in her household, the newest addition is a support animal and not just a pet. (Submitted by Hailey Fiddes - image credit)

It's a big victory for Tiny.

The three-month-old German shepherd will not be removed from his new home in Kamloops, B.C. after his teenage owner, Hailey Fiddes, 16, made a heartfelt appeal to city council to let her keep the dog despite a city bylaw that caps the number of canine pets per home to two.

Fiddes lives with her family and three other dogs plus Tiny. The family was approved by council in December 2021 to get a third pet, and asking for a fourth was pushing their luck.

But Fiddes, who has anxiety and depression, went before city council on May 31 and argued the latest addition to the family is actually a support animal.

"This is not a pet request," said Fiddes during the presentation, her voice shaking slightly with nerves.

Submitted by Hailey Fiddes
Submitted by Hailey Fiddes

Fiddes explained that Tiny has significantly improved her mental health, that she will be enrolling him in a local academy to be trained as a support animal when he is old enough, and that she should be allowed to keep the dog.

After her speech, council unanimously agreed.

"This dog is health to you," said Coun. Dale Bass, before making the initial motion to approve Fiddes' request.

Bass praised Fiddes poise, calling her "amazing" for gathering the courage to come to city hall and how important it was she was having the dog trained.

Public speaking is terrifying for Fiddes, who told council about her extensive mental health struggles. They heard how in the last year she has been put on medication and changed schools and how, until she acquired Tiny, her counselor had not seen any improvements in her.

After becoming a dog owner, Fiddes said her anxiety has so improved, her counsellor reduced her sessions from once a week to alternating weeks.

"He brings comfort and redirection about how I think," she said.

Submitted by Hailey Fiddes
Submitted by Hailey Fiddes

The teen told CBC she fell in love with the runt of the litter when her family was visiting the breeder they got their third dog from. Fiddes said the minute she held Tiny, her "very powerful" anxiety melted away.

She emailed city hall to ask for permission to keep Tiny and was told her request would likely be denied. So, despite past experiences where her social anxiety had paralyzed her in front of peers at school, she knew she would have to stand before a panel of adults and plead her case.

"My dad was standing beside me the entire time and I just stared at the paper, my hands were trembling," said Fiddes.

But in the end, she says the experience gave her two big wins — a little dog and a big sense of accomplishment.

The teen said facing council head-on showed her that she is stronger and more capable than she thought, and she hopes it sends a signal to others with social anxiety that they can tackle their fears.

"If it's something you're passionate about, like I am with my dog, then there is nothing standing in your way beside your own mental block," said Fiddes.

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