Dog-owner begs court to overturn 'discriminatory' eviction order

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The Independent Online

A woman threatened with eviction because she keeps a dog pleaded with judges today to rule her landlord was behaving unlawfully.

Dee Thomas-Ashley suffers from mental health problems and says her dog, Alfie, is her only reason for getting up in the morning and is essential to her wellbeing.

Joshua Dubin, representing her at the Court of Appeal, claimed Drum Housing Association, which provided her with her flat in Waterlooville, Hampshire, was contravening the Disability Discrimination Act with the dog prohibition clause in her tenancy agreement.

He said a doctor treating Ms Thomas-Ashley had given evidence that not only was Alfie beneficial to her, he was essential to her rehabilitation and his loss could plunge her into a severe depressive state.

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

She said she did not want to stay at her home in Itchen Court without her dog.

"I consider him to be a member of my family."

She said that when her marriage broke down, she felt like she had lost her children "and I was alone in my flat".

"I think it would be the last straw if I lost Alfie too."

Mr Dubin asked the judges to reverse a ruling at Southampton County Court and rule that the housing association's refusal to amend the no dog rule was unlawful discrimination, a possession order on the flat was unlawful and to dismiss the possession order made last year.

He said: "If Alfie were not a dog, but a prosthetic limb, medication or crutches, a letting term prohibiting them absolutely would clearly make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for the appellant to enjoy the premises and would clearly be discriminatory.

"The appellant argues that Alfie is as much an aid to her rehabilitation or control of her illness as these items are."

Philip Glen, representing the social housing association, said Ms Thomas-Ashley had taken in the dog not because of her disability but because she was helping her daughter when her ex-husband banned the Border Collie, Jack Russell cross from the former matrimonial home.

He said there was no evidence that her attachment to Alfie was in any way related to her disability.

"It was the attachment of a doting owner."

Mr Glen said she knew about the clause in the tenancy agreement when she took Alfie in and had lived for a year in the flat before that without him.

"Alfie is not an assistance dog and does not enable the appellant better to enjoy the premises."

He said that even if Ms Thomas-Ashley was not disabled she would not be able to live in the flat without Alfie because she was attached to him as a pet owner, not because of her disability.

The Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Andrew Morritt, Lord Justice Thomas and Sir Scott Baker reserved their rulings to a later date.