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38DEGREES.ORG.UK

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The Story of Debbie

 

Not many people know, but one of the UK’s leading department stores owns a portfolio of apartments above their store in the centre of the same “London Satellite” town where Thomas lives, which they rent out for residential occupancy.

It is one of the iconic chains of department stores that are known for their heart-warming Christmas adverts, which have almost become a British tradition.

I personally found myself watching the 2016 edition several times from start to finish, a happy family in their family home with a dog and coexisting in harmony with wildlife all benefiting from products that the chain was selling.

The same year, just before Christmas, at the rear stairwell leading to those flats, I ran into one of their residents Debbie, who looked very scared of my reaction when one of her big teddy bear like dogs decided to say hello to me.

I was rather tired that day, so I had become afraid that maybe she misread my tiredness to be a reaction to this encounter, but later I found out that she was simply deeply distressed by the fact that the she was told that she must give away her dogs or she would be evicted.

I was a stranger to her, but Debbie decided to confide in me. Debbie had a home in the country and was happy, she was in a relationship and had every right to hope that it would last, but she split up with her life partner and being an NHS employee, was not in a position to buy the property that was her home, and neither was she prepared for this.

She was abandoned by the person she loved and simply could not bear the thought of leaving her dogs behind that she had raised from puppies and called her children, as Debbie did not have children herself. 

She did not disclose prior to moving in that she had dogs, as many other owners are also forced to, in the hope to keep their loved ones and yet stand a chance to find affordable accommodation for themselves and their families.

"Pet owners can take up to seven times longer to rent a home compared to non pet-owners."

[src: Dog Trust]

I did not know Debbie and yet I felt such anger, when I learned that the property manager gave herself a right to intrude on Debbie’s privacy by visiting her without the 24-hour notice period required by the tenancy agreement and - as Debbie said – she then used her findings (the property manager is a woman) as the basis of her starting the eviction process.

Since she knew the only choice to retain her dogs was to become homeless, she was made to give up her dogs that she loves as her own children at the time when she needed emotional support the most, but there is no law to stand behind her.

One keeps wondering if the decision makers in the department store and in the management company - in their private time - consider themselves as good people? Do they feel joy when there is a happy ending in a movie? If so, where is their consideration in their real life? Are they aware that they are dealing with someone's life?

I feel for people like Debbie and if you feel for Debbie too, please support our petition to the UK Parliament [Emotional Assistance Pet Act].

At the time I am writing, Debbie is a broken person, since after the eviction notice materialised, she had no choice but to give away her dogs, her children, her reason to stay sane against everything.

The conclusion being, because they can – shocking if you set it against the department stores claimed commitments to the well-being of its communities. In that context, I can totally understand Debbie’s decision to simply not disclose it in advance, especially given that she was desperately looking for an affordable roof over her head, which itself is rather stressful (moving home, address etc.) and all of it on the top of the financial crisis and a broken relationship and accompanied with full-time work.

Around the same time, Debbie’s neighbour Robert, tried to simply ask for the No Pets clause to be removed prior to the renewal of the Tenancy Agreement and was told no, but with no explanation against his continuous efforts to obtain it.

Therefore, the public interest behind the Emotional Assistance Pet Act is so obvious and we cannot allow for it to be delayed due to backward thinking and unsubstantiated conclusions of some people, where facts and numbers and science shows otherwise.

 
 
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