Man with autism taking Sainsbury’s to court after refusing entry to his assistance cat

Ian Fenn says cat Chloe helps to keep him calm in busy and noisy environments

<p>Ian Fenn with his cat Chloe</p>

Ian Fenn with his cat Chloe

A man with autism is taking Sainsbury’s to court after the supermarket refused to allow his support cat into one of its shops.

Ian Fenn trained his black cat Chloe to help him with his daily life. He said Sainsbury’s decision not to allow the feline into its store had limited his independence.

Sainsbury’s said it is working with its environmental team to try to find a way for Mr Fenn and his cat to visit safely.

Mr Fenn, a designer from London, was recently diagnosed with autism. He struggles with noisy and busy environments.

“I get sensory overload in busy environments and tend to shut down. But with Chloe I can focus on her, he told the BBC.

“She brings structure to my life, she wakes me up in the morning, she tells me when to go to bed It’s difficult to know how she feels about the relationship, but I feel that we’re a team now.”

Mr Fenn visited a Sainsbury’s in Clapham, south London, in March with Chloe but was told by a security guard that he would not be allowed to bring her inside the building.

After he complained, the grocery shop chain told him it would only allow assistance dogs into its stores.

Mr Fenn is now taking legal action in a case that could make history. He said hospitals, other shops and hotel chains have allowed Chloe into their premises.

She is on a lead and dressed in a yellow “service cat” jacket when Mr Fenn takes her to the shops with him.

Chris Fry, who specialises in disability discrimination actions and is bringing a case for Fenn under the Equality Act, said: “There are plenty of cases about guide dogs being refused access to places or services but there hasn’t really been any judicial exploration of what constitutes an assistance animal if it’s not a dog.”

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We want to be an inclusive retailer where people love to work and shop and understand that some of our colleagues and customers may need support in our stores.

"At the same time, safety is our highest priority and our colleagues are trained to balance maintaining our high food hygiene standards with supporting all our customers who shop with us.

“We are in contact with the local environmental health team to see if there are ways we can help Mr Fenn to visit our store without compromising this.”

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