Despite complaints from neighbours, a deaf woman has won the right to keep her pet dogs in rented accommodation near Ladbroke Grove after lawyers argued that the animals provided vital emotional support.
Ashleigh Costello, 55, who is transgender and has suffered depression in the past, lost her partner and two close friends within a relatively short time. She said that the three dogs, two Shih Tzus named Bon Bon and Chester and a Jack Russel/Chihuahua named Tibor, not only provided practical support for her disability but also offered her companionship when she was at her lowest.
Following complaints about noise nuisance from a neighbour, Ms Costello’s landlord, Octavia Housing, issued injunction proceedings against her for breaching her tenancy agreement. It said it had never objected to her keeping one formally trained assistance dog for the deaf but the three dogs constituted a nuisance. Ms Costello said that since the dogs were too old to be rehoused, they would have to be put down if they were not allowed to continue living with her.
HJA lawyers defended Ms Costello’s case under the Equality Act 2010. Social housing lawyer Siddiq Fazaluddin said that following the original complaints, Octavia had agreed to provide Ms Costello with the financial assistance for additional carpeting to reduce the noise, but these and other measures had never been implemented. HJA argued that Octavia had failed to make reasonable adjustments to take account of Ms Costello’s disability.
It also argued that the procedure to obtain a formally trained assistance dog was a long one with a waiting list and was not a short-term remedy, by which time her dogs were likely to have passed away.
After several postponements of the final hearing, during which time one of the dogs died, the landlord finally agreed Ms Costello could keep the other two dogs until they died of natural causes after she assured the court she would take all reasonable steps to ensure they weren’t a nuisance. She will, however, only be allowed to replace her pets once they do pass away with a formally trained assistance dog for the deaf.
Mr Fazaluddin said the housing team and Ms Costello were very pleased with the result.
“It means that Ms Costello can continue to live in the property with her beloved companions, which is a huge relief to her since she has lived with the threat of an injunction for the past two years, which has been very traumatic.”
Ms Costello added that she was keen for other deaf people to hear her story in the hope it would encourage them to take action if they felt they were being treated unfairly.
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Notes for Editors
Hodge Jones and Allen
- Hodge Jones and Allen is one of the UK’s most progressive law firms, renowned for doing things differently and fighting injustice. Its managing partner is Patrick Allen, recently awarded a lifetime achievement award by Solicitors Journal.
- For 40 years’ the firm has been at the centre of many of the UK’s landmark legal cases that have changed the lives and rights of many people.
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