Woman loses legal battle to keep pet dog

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A woman who says her dog is the reason for getting up in the morning lost a legal battle today to be allowed to keep pet Alfie at her housing association flat.

Three Court of Appeal judges expressed sympathy for Dee Thomas-Ashley, who suffers from mental health problems, but rejected a challenge brought against her landlords.

Sir Scott Baker, giving the ruling of the court in London, said Alfie, a Jack Russell/Border Collie cross, lives with Ms Thomas-Ashley in her one-bedroom flat at Itchen Court, Crombie Close, Lovedean in Hampshire.

"Unfortunately the appellant's tenancy agreement does not allow dogs to be kept on the premises," he said.

Drum Housing Association told her Alfie would have to leave, said the judge: "When he did not they took proceedings for possession against her in the Southampton County Court."

Sir Scott said the county court held that Ms Thomas-Ashley, a divorced mother-of-four who has been a tenant at Itchen Court since June 2006, had no answer to the claim.

He said she appealed on the grounds that "she has a disability and the presence of Alfie is critical to her health".

Ms Thomas-Ashley said she "cannot enjoy the premises without him" and claimed the association was in breach of duty under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in maintaining the "no dogs" provision in her tenancy agreement.

Her case was that the possession order should not have been made and should be "set aside".

Sir Scott said Ms Thomas-Ashley "suffers from a condition called Bipolar Mood Disorder which is a complex disorder characterised by cyclical and episodic disturbances in mood which, at their extreme, fulfil criteria for manic as well as depressive episodes".

Rejecting her appeal, the judge said: Whilst one inevitably has sympathy for the predicament in which the appellant finds herself this is not a case where the interpretation of the legislation can be stretched in order to assist her. Its meaning is clear."

She had failed on the facts found by the county court judge to show that the "no animals" term discriminated against her on the grounds of her disability.

Her disorder could not "trump" her contractual agreement with her landlords or the interests of the other occupiers of Itchen Court.

Ms Thomas-Ashley had said in a witness statement: "Alfie is my reason to get up every morning."