Couple win battle with Network Homes to keep their pet 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’s three-week battle to bring their rescue dog home is finally over after an intervention from a former council leader and a human rights charity.

Andrew and Gustavo William-Coleman moved to their Network Homes flat earlier this year after a violent homophobic attack at their last address that left them both in hospital - and a separate ordeal at the hands of a stalker who smashed down their door and threatened to kill them.

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

Their fight to bring Bessie home was backed by former council leader Ann John OBE and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Andrew said of the U-turn: "We're ecstatic. We've reached the end of a long drawn out journey. It's been a nightmare."

Hoping to settle in to their new home after the ordeal, the couple went to the Mayhew charity in Kensal Green and chose Bessie on June 5 after one housing officer told them they could keep a pet.

But when they asked Network Homes for a formal letter, a requirement of the charity, to their dismay the landlord refused to issue one, saying the flat was unsuitable.

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For three weeks they fought to bring Bessie home for the night despite support from Ann John OBE, a former council leader, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, a human rights charity.

They also said other neighbours had pets and could not understand why they were being treated differently.

After being contacted by the Brent & Kilburn Times last week, the housing association called an emergency meeting and the couple can now keep their pet.

"When I did eventually meet the director of housing at Network Homes," said Andrew, "he apologised for the wrongdoing and failure that occurred. They allowed me to put my case forward and gave special consideration to our circumstances on the grounds of vulnerability.

"We would like to thank everyone who supported us. We're just ecstatic we can finally bring Bessie home."

Pliny Soocoormanee, executive assistant of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said: "Dogs are very important to people's mental health and I am pleased to hear that the housing association has made a U-turn for this couple who are responsible dog owners."

Network Homes spokesperson said it tried to apply its policies "consistently and fairly" and had to consider the impact pets had on other people living in the community. But a spokesperson added: "We recognise the importance of the dog to their wellbeing, so we are pleased to say we have told them they can keep their dog."