Story sets fur flying: Thelma Williams, 81, chose to move out of the Alstonville Adventist Retirement Village rather than give up her beloved dog Bonnie, who has been with her for 15 years.
Story sets fur flying: Thelma Williams, 81, chose to move out of the Alstonville Adventist Retirement Village rather than give up her beloved dog Bonnie, who has been with her for 15 years. Cathy Adams

Aged home dogged by bad publicity

THELMA WILLIAMS has been overwhelmed by the media attention she has received since The Northern Star ran her story on the front page of Wednesday’s newspaper.

Following our coverage, Mrs Williams’ story ran in the Daily Telegraph and aired on Channel 7’s Today Tonight, as well as on the evening news for Channels 9 and 10.

Mrs Williams, 81, lived at the Adventist Aged Care Retirement Village in Alstonville with her Chihuahua Bonnie for 10 months before she was taken to the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal in an attempt to have Bonnie evicted.

Despite evidence from her vet, a dog behavioural trainer and two doctors that Bonnie assisted Mrs Williams to hear and see, Seventh-day Adventist Aged Care (North New South Wales) refused to allow Bonnie to stay.

Mrs Williams now lives with her daughter Cheryl Gardiner, who was forced to sell her home to buy a new home for her and her mother.

Mrs Williams said she had lost her independence since being forced to leave her unit, at the retirement village, which included a 24-hour assistance call button.

She said because Bonnie had been a part of her life for 15 years and had become a working dog assisting her with sight and hearing in the home she had no choice but to move out.

“Twelve months ago I was living an independent lifestyle and they’ve destroyed that totally and I’m not happy,” she said.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said that under the Disability Discrimination Act it was unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their disability.

He said Bonnie’s age, size or breed had nothing to do with whether or not she could be classed as a hearing dog.

Mr Innes said Mrs Williams was still within her rights to lodge a complaint with the commission.

Mrs Gardiner said she was investigating her mother’s legal options.



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