Trauma for vulnerable couple as Network Homes bans them from keeping their rescue dog

Gustavo (left) and Andrew William-Coleman with Bessie the dog. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Gustavo (left) and Andrew William-Coleman with Bessie the dog. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg - Credit: Jonathan Goldberg

A disabled couple who were safely moved following a brutal attack at their Wembley hostel are now battling with their housing association which says they can’t keep their pet dog.

Andrew and Gustavo William-Coleman are distraught and vow to appeal Network Homes decision to ban their rescue dog Bessie.

The couple paid an unrefundable adoption fee to staff at the Mayhew, in Kensal Green, on June 5 after a housing officer confirmed in a text message that they could have a dog.

But for two weeks they've been unsuccessfully battling to bring Bessie home for the night despite support from Ann John OBE, former council leader, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation who have been trying to contact the Wembley Park based housing organisation.

Network homes, in Fulton Road, has said the couple need written permission to keep a pet, that their large one-bedroom flat is 'unsuitable' for a dog of Bessie's size and also a 'potential noise nuisance' for neighbours.

Andrew has cancer and curvature of the spine and and cares for his husband Gustavo who has severe learning difficulties.

They are terrified they will have return the dog and are also baffled why other neighbours can keep pets.

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Andrew said: "We are distraught. All the trauma we suffered before, Bessie was about a new beginning. She's an incredible dog who has had a terrible start too. We've had lots of assessments to be able to have her. We have her bed and all her toys. We collect her every day then have to return her.

"Yesterday [June 18] we came home and there was a poster stuck to our door saying no pets and a letter pushed through saying we are in breach of our tenancy if we have a pet. Other neighbours have pets, five of them have dogs.

"This is making us physically ill and insecure."

The couple were subjected to a brutal attack at the Euro Hotel in Elm Road, Wembley in June last year.

Despite police giving them a body camera and panic alarm to keep them safe and CCTV cameras at the front door and front window they were subjected to a second attack months later.

Denise Kaydar, a canine home visit volunteer for Mayhew, assessed the couple's flat prior to purchase, said: "I was very, very pleased with the outcome of the visit. Bessie and the couple were very happy, both of them need each other.

"Rescue dogs are a little more special as they don't always have the best start in life. It's a match made in heaven."

She added: "It's a beautiful flat with a large balcony. Other neighbours live with dogs so I don't quite understand why one flat has permission to have a dog and not another.

"This needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. We have to think about the dog's welfare and the welfare of Andrew and Gustavo who now feel marginalised in their beautiful new home."

Pliny Soocoormanee, executive assistant of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, a human rights charity, said: "Andrew and Gustavo had a really traumatic experience. Having a pet is helping them cope a bit better with every day life which is something Network Homes needs to take into consideration."

He added: "Network Homes is not treating them fairly. They should be at least responding to our requests to them to find a solution but they don't seem to be doing that."

A spokesperson from the Mayhew said they would keep Bessie reserved until the end of the week as a gesture of goodwill as the couple's appeal continues adding: "If they are unable to secure the required permission to have a dog, we will have to relist Betty for adoption as per our rehoming policy.

"We obviously greatly sympathise with the couple and very much hope that they are able to resolve the matter and take Bessie home as planned, as we are personally satisfied with their home environment from an animal welfare point of view.

"However, the final decision to allow a pet in a home rests ultimately with the [organisation] that owns the property, and as a result we too our bound by that decision."A spokesperson for Network Homes, said: "We recognise pet ownership can have positive benefits on health and wellbeing. But pets can cause problems if they are kept in an unsuitable property. This is why we ask all tenants to get permission in writing if they want to keep a pet so that we can properly assess all the relevant information before making a decision.

"The couple in this case live in a one-bedroom flat on the first floor of a medium-size block. This is not a suitable property to keep a dog of this type and size, both in terms of the welfare of the pet as well as the potential noise nuisance for neighbours.

"During the signing up process we did advise the couple that they would need written permission to keep a pet following their initial request.

"We're happy to sit down with the tenants and discuss their options with reference to their particular needs."