An autistic man who was told he and his companion cat would have to leave a Sainsbury’s store has taken legal action against the supermarket chain.
Ian Fenn said Chloe would sit on his shoulder when he was out and would keep him from feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
The 51-year-old web designer was ordered to vacate a south London office in March after staff spotted his feline companion.
Sainsbury’s bosses say cats pose a food hygiene risk and, unlike service dogs, are not allowed in shops.
Now he looks poised for a court showdown with the retail giant that could set a new legal precedent regarding service animals.
Mr Fenn, from Tooting, south London, says he’s been taking the rescue cat with him for about a year.
He has had Chloe for five years after adopting her and estimates that she is 12 or 13.
Recounting how he was kicked out of the Clapham Common store, he said: “By the end I was so upset I left the store and went home.
“Basically I switched off. I was overwhelmed. I was also very upset and that would have happened much sooner if Chloe hadn’t been there.
“I’ve lost confidence because … these kinds of things happen to disabled people so often they have a name, which is denial of access.
“Chloe doesn’t influence anyone else. I just want to go to a supermarket, get my stuff and leave.
“I had plans for the next day and canceled them because I didn’t dare to leave the house.
“Because it’s unusual to have a cat like this, I’m pragmatic about it, so I email every store I visit or call them in advance if I can. I did that with over 200 seats.’
Mr Fenn said he had contacted Sainsbury’s before his visit in March and was told it should be fine.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “We aim 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 top priority and our colleagues are trained to balance maintaining our high food hygiene standards with support for all of our customers who shop with us.
“We are in contact with the local environmental health team to see if there are any ways we can help Mr. Fenn visit our store without jeopardizing it.”
Chris Fry, a leading disability rights advocate representing Mr Fenn, said he has started proceedings against Sainsbury’s after failing to find a “compromise” with the company.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/05/27/sainsburys-facing-legal-action-over-autistic-mans-claim-16726753/ Sainsbury faces legal action over allegations of an autistic man