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February 28, 2003

Deaf man must cope without hearing dog

From: Watford Observer, UK - 28 Feb 2003

A PROFOUNDLY deaf man who trained his own assistance dog to alert him to sounds has been forced to cope without her after being evicted from his home.

Mr Shaun O'Connor, his partner Alison Clack and her two-year-old daughter, Morgan, were living in The Gossamers, Garston, but had to leave on Monday due to circumstances beyond their control.

Watford Council put them into temporary accommodation in a hostel in Watford but Shaun's four dogs, including his 'hearing' dog, Billie, have not been allowed to move with him. The dogs have been safely homed elsewhere until appropriate alternative accommodation can be found.

Mr O'Connor is not permitted to take Billie into his temporary home because he has trained her himself and therefore she does not officially qualify as a working assistance dog.

It is not possible for Billie, aged six, to be trained or certified by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, the recognised national charity which trains and provides hearing assistance dogs, because she is too old the recommended maximum age for training is three years and the animals provided are the property and therefore the legal responsibility of the charity.

Mr O'Connor said he felt very vulnerable in the temporary accommodation, which he describes as a "death-trap" and has written to several organisations and politicians to express his concerns.

His main fear is not being alerted to a fire and not being able to hear people knocking on the door. In addition, Mr O'Connor said in his letter there is no fire escape in the room which means that a fire in the corridor could put himself, Ms Clack and her daughter in grave danger.

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