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Autistic Man Takes Sainsbury’s To Court For Refusing Entry To Assistance Cat

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A man with autism, Ian Fenn, had decided to act against Sainsbury’s by suing them for refusing entry to his assistance cat, named Chloe. The designer and writer from London said that the entry ban on Chloe is “limiting his independence”, as she usually helps him in his daily life. The assistance cat helps the man stay calm; however, the giant supermarket has argued that cats, unlike assistance dogs, present risks to food hygiene.

Having recently been diagnosed with autism after many years of struggling with anxiety in busy or noisy places, Ian Fenn trained Chloe to help him manage his symptoms and get on with his daily life without any trouble. This started when during a train journey Ian discovered that Chloe’s presence helped improve the situation that would otherwise have been a very stressful journey.

He said, “I realised that my life was a lot better with her being around – there’s a lot of autistic people suffering from depression. I’m not alone any more. I get sensory overload in busy environments and tend to shut down. But with Chloe I can focus on her. 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.”

Ian Fenn makes sure that he contacts business owners or operators in advance, taking Chloe to more than “30 different restaurants and pubs, numerous public attractions, a hospital and on scores of trains and buses”. Unfortunately, Chloe is not accepted everywhere.

Back in March 2022, Ian and Chloe went to Sainsbury’s in Clapham, south London, thinking that he had been given permission. However, the security and staff told him that he needed to leave his cat outside.

Ian Fenn said, “I ended up becoming quite upset. I got to the point where I couldn’t actually remember why I was in the store and what I needed to buy. It affected my confidence significantly. I stayed in the house for two weeks before I got the confidence back to go out.”

The supermarket Sainsbury’s has said that it is working with an environmental health team to find out how Ian Fenn and his assistance cat Chloe can visit their stores safely. It has been reported that this case may set a legal precedent if it is ruled on by top judges.

According to BBC, “under the Equality Act 2010, business owners have a duty to make a reasonable adjustment so as to ensure that someone who has a disability is not placed at a substantial disadvantage. The UK’s definition of a disability includes autism, because the condition can be shown to affect day-to-day life.”