Skip to main content

Cat owner enters court battle to have his service cat recognized as a support animal

service cat Chloe
(Image credit: Instagram / @ifenn and @chloe.blackcat)

One man is taking to court in order to be able to bring his service cat into shops with him in what could prove to be a landmark case.

When you hear the term ‘support animal’, a dog is generally the animal that springs most readily to mind. However, in truth they come in all shapes and sizes – not to mention species.

In this instance, Ian Fenn from London, UK relies on his cat Chloe to provide the support he needs when he’s out and about.

Having recently been diagnosed with autism, Ian discovered that having Chloe with him helps him stay calm in situations that would otherwise cause him stress, such as traveling on a train or shopping.

Generally, most places seem fine with Ian – who usually contacts them in advance – bringing Chloe with him. 

However, in March, while visiting Sainsbury’s, a UK food store, he was told by employees there that he had to leave his cat behind.

Now, he is taking the store to court over the right to bring Chloe in with him, as detailed over on her Instagram account (opens in new tab).

"On 12 March 2022, I was asked to leave the Sainsbury’s store in Clapham Common because I had Chloe with me," he wrote. "I have tried to reach agreement with Sainsbury’s to no avail. So, I’m going to court as a last resort."

Speaking of the experience, Ian 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 case could well end up with ramifications. While Sainsbury’s permits support dogs in its stores, the same freedom isn’t extended to cats due to hygiene issues.

In the US, the issue has also been particularly prominent, with a law in 2018 stating that only dogs were allowed to travel by air as support animals.

While cats may be an unconventional choice as far as support animals go, it is generally widely recognized that they do not require much human intervention such as baths to stay clean, instead preferring to keep good hygiene themselves with their excellent grooming skills.

Steve writes and proofreads buying guides, news stories and advice for Pets Radar, drawing on his lifelong experience as a pet owner. Currently sharing his house with two cats and a dog, he draws on the many highs and occasional lows of pet ownership he has borne witness to in his writing. He has worked in publishing for 15 years as an editor, sub editor and writer on a range of titles, such as SciFiNow, How It Works, All About History, Real Crime and Horrorville. You can follow him on Twitter @stevewright22