A man with severe mental health issues faces eviction after doctors prescribed him an emotional support dog.Christopher Palmer, 63, has suffered through years of depression, anxiety and other psychological problems. His issues have left him socially isolated with suicidal tenancies, but his life changed in 2018 when he got Tammy. His beagle helps him through anxiety and panic attacks, with Mr Palmer stating: ‘Without Tammy I would not be able to get out of the house’.
However, when Plymouth Community Homes found out about the dog, they ordered that she be re-homed as Christopher is not permitted to keep a pet. The landlord says Christopher is in breach of his tenancy agreement which states he is not permitted to keep a dog as he lives in a high rise flat, according to their pet policy.
However, if he refuses to give away Tammy, Christopher will have to move out of his home of eight years too.
There is a section in the Plymouth Community Homes Pets Policy that explains pets are allowed if they are medically prescribed.
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PCH has said they would re-home both of them, however Christopher’s doctor has argued this would make his condition worse.The case went to Plymouth County Court on Tuesday, but a judge gave Christopher a stay of execution, ordering that they could carry on living together until another hearing in January.
Speaking afterwards, Christopher said: ‘Without Tammy I would not be able to get out of the house.
‘I need to have her 24 hours a day. I suffer panic attacks and anxiety so I need to have her with me.
‘PCH should not be able to treat people with mental health the way they do.
‘They should treat people with a bit of respect. I cannot move to a new place as I have friends in the building who support me.
‘If they moved me somewhere else I would not know anybody.
‘My neighbours all agree that this is disgusting. Tammy has not been any trouble at all.
‘There have not been any complaints. I just don’t understand it.
‘They allow deaf dogs, so why not her?
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‘I have got a bit of encouragement from the judge. I had stopped eating as I was so anxious – but hopefully I can start again. She seemed to care.’Dr Michaela Stoffregen, who prescribed Tammy, has written numerous letters to Plymouth Community Homes to convince them to allow the beagle to stay.
She said: ‘The dog is very important for [Christopher’s] mental health and reduces his anxiety and loneliness.
‘I think it would be quite cruel to take the dog away from him and equally he wouldn’t be able to cope well with finding a new place.
‘He has severe mental health issues and his dog keeps him stable.
‘I strongly advise that everything possible has to be done to let Christopher keep his little dog, as it is a lifeline for him.
‘A move would be disastrous to his mental health in my opinion. He has already expressed suicidal thought about this situation.
‘I am extremely concerned about his mental state and taking away his dog will likely worsen his suicidal thoughts and might well tip him over the edge.’At the court hearing, solicitor Vincent Davis – representing Plymouth Community Homes – said the tenant was ‘in breach of his tenancy for keeping a dog in the property’.
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He said he should be required to remove the dog ‘within seven days of servicing the injunction order’.
He added: ‘He has been offered the choice between re-homing the dog, or moving to an alternative premises that has its own garden.
‘Most tenants would jump to move from a multi-storey block to their own garden but Mr Palmer has not engaged with that.
‘Various efforts have been made but he has not engaged with the process. This is a long standing policy that was adopted in 2011/2012.
‘The reasons why you cannot keep pets in a high rise flat is the nuisance it causes to other neighbours.
‘We recognise the benefits to having a pet but to have one in such close proximity to others causes problems with urine and faeces in communal areas.’
He also highlighted the problem a dog could cause during an evacuation, saying there was ‘good reason’ for the rule.Judge Vanessa Priddis said: ‘If Mr Palmer was blind and had a guide dog would we say the same?'Unicorn puppy' with tail growing out of his head is rescued from the street
‘He is disabled and ten minutes to deal with and make a decision on this is not fair. There are technical and legal issues to consider.
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‘I have to consider his mental state and if he understands that. This has been on-going since February and I need time to take proper advice.
‘We don’t want to rush it. I am not going to sacrifice dealing with the case fairly for speed.’
One of his neighbours, who accompanied him to court, said: ‘The housing association may think they are legally right, but they are morally extremely wrong.
‘I am a neighbour and there has never been any problem with the dog. She is very well behaved and there have never been any issues.
‘No one has complained so why are they doing this to him?’
The case will resume on 9 January 2020.