Housing struggle for hearing disabled man, dog

By Roger Moroney -
Murray Whittington and his assistance dog Frodo will soon have to move out, but they don't know where.
Murray Whittington and his assistance dog Frodo will soon have to move out, but they don't know where.

Hearing disabled Napier man Murray Whittington's search to find rental accommodation has drawn a blank - but the reason for his being unable to secure somewhere to live has drawn the attention of Green Party MP Mojo Mathers, who is also hearing disabled.

The heart of the problem is Mr Whittington's 6-year-old hearing service dog Frodo, provided by Hearing Dogs New Zealand to assist him.

Frodo, despite being a placid and well-trained dog, is the sticking point for rental agencies, as Mr Whittington has discovered.

He has been in his current rental address in Pirimai for nearly 10 years, but the property owner is now in the process of selling up and Mr Whittington has been pursuing somewhere for him and Frodo, and his 10-year-old son Daniel, to move to. But he has drawn blank after blank.

Mr Whittington said Work and Income told him it had nothing available, but that it would be easier if he did not have a dog.

"Housing New Zealand policy is they will allow dogs in some situations but they haven't got anything on their books at this time," he said.

"I've met with real-estate agents but when they approach the landlord it's the same story — no dogs."

He said trying to explain that Frodo was an assistance dog made no difference.

Some agents suggested he try Trade Me for accommodation options, which he did but rentals which would have suited all had the same bottom line — "no dogs".

Mr Whittington suffered from German measles after he was born, which took away the sight in one eye and about 80 per cent of his hearing. He said having Frodo as a companion helped him cope. Frodo also alerted him to visitors or calls.

"I just want the security of knowing we'll have somewhere to go — otherwise I'm facing the streets."

His situation came to the attention of Ms Mathers, who is the Green Party's disability issues spokeswoman.

"It's very concerning that Murray is finding it so hard to find somewhere to live," she said.

"This isn't the first time I've heard of people being discriminated against because they have a disability assist dog — it's another layer of discrimination that people with disabilities shouldn't have to face."

She said people needed to stop viewing disability assist dogs as "just a pet".

"They are far more than that. Disability dogs make an invaluable difference to their owner's life — they enable their owner a quality of life and independence that they otherwise would not have."

She has created a member's bill, which is currently in the ballot, to hopefully solve the issue.

"I created my bill because I've heard of other situations like Murray faces, where people are being excluded from places because they have a disability assist dog.

"My bill clearly and simply spells out that you cannot deny people a service, like accommodation, just because they have a disability assist dog."

She said people like Mr Whittington were facing "significant discrimination and that's not good enough in 21st-century New Zealand".

Anyone who knows of a suitable place can contact Murray at whittington@icloud.com.

For more articles from this region, go to

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 02 Mar 2017 07:26:02 Processing Time: 926ms