Man sues Sainsbury’s for discrimination after banning his assistance cat Chloe
She often assists with 'hospital, GP, and blood donation appointments'
A man is suing Sainsbury's after they refused to allow his support cat, Chloe, into the store, having told him they only allow support dogs.
Ian Fenn, who has autism, has trained a black cat named Chloe to support him and prevent sensory overload while out and about. Chloe has been allowed to assist Fenn in countless other situations and venues, including zoos and aquariums.
Here’s Ian Fenn being told he can’t have his assistance cat in Sainsbury’s: pic.twitter.com/dqjljvZrPk
— Dominic Casciani (@BBCDomC) May 27, 2022
While visiting the shop in March, security told Fenn that he could not enter with Chloe. After complaining, Sainsbury's confirmed that they only permit guide dogs - but this has confused Fenn, who said Chloe has joined him in trips to the "hospital, GP, and blood donation appointments."
The now-viral video has been shared online, where people have voiced their support for Fenn and Chloe.
@sainsburys I consider more of a food hygiene risk to be those unsupervised kids l sampling the pick-n-mix with snotty fingers or those clarty customers prodding the fruit; not #chloe the cat! Get a grip! #IanFenn #chloethecat
— SVP (@svp12svp) May 27, 2022
"We've been to zoos and aquariums where biosecurity needs to be considered," Fenn explained via Chloe's Twitter account. "We've been to other supermarkets. What is so special about Sainsbury's, who originally said I was welcome in any store?"
Speaking to the BBC, Fenn said he gets a "sensory overload in busy environments" but with Chloe, he can focus on her.
Chloe accompanies me to hospital, GP, and blood donation appointments. We’ve been to zoos and aquariums where biosecurity needs to be considered. We’ve been to other supermarkets. What is so special about Sainsburys, who originally said I was welcome in any store?
— Chloe the Black Cat (@chloe_blackcat) May 27, 2022
He added: "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."
Chloe is reportedly well-mannered, wears a fluorescent yellow "service cat" jacket, and spends most of her time on Fenn's shoulder. Unfortunately for Fenn and Chloe, the supermarket giant has argued that despite Chloe's upstanding nature, changing the rule for one would mean changing it for every feline out there.
However, they are working with a "local environmental health team" to find a workaround.
Well done for taking legal action, Chloe should be allowed to accompany you, she is your support. I live with severe depression & my cat is the best antidepressant I ever tried.
live in Clapham & I intend to take Caligula to that @sainsburys to check their reaction! pic.twitter.com/WnPxrPcMKO
— Gerry Stergiopoulos (@GerryGreek) May 27, 2022
Lawyer Chris Fry is bringing a case forward under the Equality Act and said that there had not been any "judicial exploration" of what an assistance animal can be beyond dogs.
"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," he explained.
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