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The John Chadwick Pet Policy

Several years ago, when campaigning for a ban on no pet clauses I was introduced to an inspirational lady called Dee Bonett, who through her own campaign was aligned with our values. This is a special and emotional day for Dee and all those who supported her journey. Today on the anniversary of the death of Dee's friend John, we would like to share their story and acknowledge her amazing achievements and her lasting legacy to John.


On October 5th 2021, The John Chadwick Pet Policy was introduced by Maidstone Borough Council, ensuring that those with pets who have become homeless are supported in Emergency Accommodation until suitable permanent accommodation can be found - for both the homeless person and their pet.


Pets are family, the John Chadwick Pet Policy
John Chadwick with his much loved pets.

Background


Dee lost her best friend John Chadwick on 16th March 2017, when he died by suicide 10 days after being made homeless, and separated from his beloved pets - Jack Russells, Theo and Tinkerbell, and Gizmo the cat.

Following John’s death, Dee contacted her local MP to find out why, given that we’re a nation of animal lovers, the needs of those that are homeless and have pets aren’t given more consideration.

More than four years later, thanks to a lot of persistence on Dee’s part and the support of various local Councillors, Maidstone has become the first council in England to adopt The John Chadwick Pet Policy.


The John Chadwick Pet Policy.
Dee Bonett and John Chadwick

John and Dee's story


Dee met John at Kenward Trust in 2008. John was born in Salford, sadly due to unforeseen events he had become Street Homeless in London for 2 years. John was found in a vulnerable state by St Mungo’s Homeless Charity who transferred him to Kent in the care of Kenward Trust . After he had completed a 6-month drug and alcohol rehabilitation programme he secured a tenancy with a Private Landlord in Maidstone, Kent.


Dee was always aware that John’s Mental Health presented as a “quiet” condition, no one would ever know just by speaking with him. She knew he was a gentle and kind man and one of the most grounded people she knew. John was loved and respected by all that knew him. His story so inspired Dee that she began working for Kenward Trust, helping those affected by addiction, homelessness, and crime in 2010 and is still employed by them today.


John lived with his beloved pets until he was served with a section 21 in 2016, as his private landlord wanted to sell the property. He was evicted on 6th March 2017, separated from his pets, and placed in a B & B, by Maidstone Borough Council. He was given one offer only of permanent housing, with a No Pet Policy. If John had declined the offer, he would become intentionally homeless. The unconditional bond John had with his pets, Theo, Tinkerbell, and Gizmo could not be described, they meant everything to him. He died by Suicide on 16th March 2017, 10 days after being separated from his pets; his family.


The John Chadwick Pet Policy
Theo, Tinkerbell and Gizmo

Dee's Campaign in Johns Memory


Dee had called the media prior to John’s death but to no avail - no one wanted to know. After he died, she then called them back and said he had died by suicide and suddenly it made news headlines. Kent Online News and Manchester Evening News became involved – the public were shocked by these events.


Dee started a petition in September 2017 which included support from Kent Online News and Manchester Evening News. This promotion led to a myriad of additional support from housing professionals, especially across Social Media platforms.


After receiving Dee’s letter, her local MP, Helen Grant, contacted the Minister for Local Government, whose office supplied the guidelines for local authorities. These showed that the Government’s commitment to reducing homelessness included endorsing accommodation that fulfilled an individual’s needs, however it simply stated: “local councils can consider pets when deciding if accommodation is suitable” - there was no obligation to ensure the homeless could keep their pets with them.


Helen then wrote to the Head of Housing and Community Services at Maidstone Council, who stated that John Chadwick’s case highlighted the much wider issue that couldn’t be solved solely via the council. Nevertheless, inspired by John’s tragic death and Dee’s amazing campaign, the Communities, Housing and Environment Committee (CHEC) at Maidstone Borough Council agreed to implement a New Pet Policy for Emergency Housing in July 2018, to ensure pets would be accepted in emergency accommodation.


However, the 3rd paragraph in the Pet Policy stated that if a permanent housing offer was made with a “no pet policy”, it would not be deemed an unreasonable offer.


To Dee, all this new policy did was help a vulnerable person and their pets halfway up the ladder, getting them into emergency accommodation. But if they were then given a permanent offer, they could have to choose between taking a home without their pets or giving up the offer that home. And if they gave up the offer, they would then be considered to be making themselves intentionally homeless and no further help would be given.


The John Chadwick Pet Policy
John Chadwick with his much loved dogs