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An autistic man is suing Sainsbury's after they banned his assistance cat from all of its stores because of hygiene concerns.
Ian Fenn was left devastated after he was told to take Chloe outside after they entered the store in Clapham, South London.
The writer, from London, has trained his feline friend to help him cope with day-to-day life and says he has been much happier since he first met her at a pub.
He says Sainsbury's told him that cats threaten food hygiene levels, despite assistance dogs being welcomed onto the shop floor.
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But the cat helps his anxiety in busy and noisy environments and now a court fight is looming as he refuses to accept their reasons for shutting Chloe out.
The case might set a legal precedent if it has to be ruled on by top judges.
"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 anymore," he says.
"I appreciate a bloke wandering around with a cat is a bit unusual but the reality is that I don't want that attention – what I want to do is just run my life normally.
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"So when somebody says, 'No, you can't, because you have this creature that is helping you,' it's really upsetting. 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."
Sainsbury's says the company are working with an environmental health team to find out how Ian and Chloe can visit safely.
In a statement, the supermarket 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."
- In the News
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