A woman who led a campaign in memory of her homeless friend who took his own life when he couldn’t take his pets into emergency accommodation is delighted by a council’s latest move.
In 2017, John Chadwick died because he was told he couldn’t take his pets into Maidstone council’s emergency housing.
Subsequently, the authority changed its policy to give homeless people the right to take their “companion pets” into emergency homes.
Now the borough has gone a step further in introducing a 12-month pilot scheme allowing those in emergency accommodation also to refuse an offer of permanent accommodation if it doesn’t take pets.
It is thought Maidstone is the first authority in the country to adopt such a policy.
The pilot scheme will in theory still allow the council to consider the refusal of any second offer of permanent accommodation as ending its legal duty to find someone a home, but councillors on the Communities Housing and Environment Committee on Tuesday were insistent that the wording make it clear that housing officers could still use “discretionary powers” to hold out for a further offer.
Councillors did consider an option of adopting a policy that would give clients the right of repeated refusals, but the head of housing John Littlemore warned that such a policy could create a bottleneck in the council’s 80 temporary home properties.
He said if they were all full, the council would end up placing people who were newly homeless into bed and breakfast accommodation - where they certainly wouldn’t be allowed to keep their pets.
But he promised his housing officers were always as compassionate as possible.
Although Cllr Margaret Rose described the option of repeated refusals as the “gold standard,” all members were happy to support the pilot scheme.
Cllr Malcolm McKay (Lab) said it was “a very positive step”.
Cllr Val Springett (Con) said: “As a a pet owner, I know they are a part of your family. I can’t imagine the upset of having to give up your pet to put a roof over your head.”
Cllr Patrik Garten (Con) said pets were “important for the mental health of their owners”.
The decision has delighted Dee Bonett, a close friend of Mr Chadwick, who ever since his death has led an active campaign to persuade the council to become more lenient over pets.
She said: “I’m overwhelmed.”
Ms Bonett, who has addressed the last four meetings of the committee on the issue, said afterwards: “I was literally shaking afterwards.
“It’s such good news. I’d like to thank the committee with all my heart.”
Councillors in turn praised Ms Bonett for her determination.
You can view the council debate here .
You can visit's Dee Bonett's Facebook page here .