No More Dogs in Grocery Stores: A Reasonable Reader Responds

Another alternative to reading HuffPo while having your dog on-leash in the coffeeshop's window: NOT HAVING YOUR DOG IN THE COFFEESHOP, ON THE COFFEESHOP'S WINDOWSILL.
Another alternative to reading HuffPo while having your dog on-leash in the coffeeshop’s window: NOT HAVING YOUR DOG IN THE COFFEESHOP, ON THE COFFEESHOP’S WINDOWSILL.

Nearly a year ago, I encountered an asshole with a puppy in his Safeway cart. Since writing about that experience last February, the story continues to inspire opinionated comments, in spurts here and there (TWSS). The most recent comment, from just a couple days ago, certainly had enough time and forethought invested as to warrant a larger audience and hopefully move this conversation forward. The supportive screed, care of SunBreak commentator Sirophix:

Thanks for the article, Audrey. I think it brings up some really important points for Seattle residents. Personally, I agree that non-service dogs should not be permitted in grocery stores or other food and beverage establishments. I have been an animal-lover my entire life and am hoping to get my first very own puppy this summer. I look forward to taking him out and about–but not inside places that prepare and serve food.

Owners of service dogs have given us stories of their dogs being attacked by non-SDs in public areas, and I think this is horrible. Anyone who has ever encountered a truly trained SD knows it’s not your average pet. I’m sure most people won’t appreciate this comparison, but I would describe service dogs as regular dogs whose sparks have been snuffed out. I say this having only seen SDs for a few moments at a time in very busy, very public situations where absolute adherence to training is essential, so it makes sense that there is no room for any of that spontaneous behavior. After all, someone’s life could be at stake.

Perhaps some people would be willing to compile more comprehensive arguments for their points? Personally my argument is dogs (and I say dogs because I think mini-horses are quite rare as service animals) shouldn’t be in restaurants and grocery stores for two main reasons.

(Whether or not children should be allowed in grocery stores is orthogonal and I don’t think it does anything but cloud the issue. For this reason I am not addressing that argument and its points.)

1) Dogs tend to shed fur and dander and can carry and spread many diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans. I don’t want these things on my food, clothes, or person when I am purchasing food, drink, or groceries.

I don’t think it’s hypocritical to be accepting of one’s own pets in one’s own home. That said, I ensure the food I prepare in my kitchen does not contain pet hair. I don’t have a la-dee-da attitude with that. Maybe it’s a preference, maybe it’s a mindset–I just don’t want to ingest parts of my pets. And I know where my pets go, what they eat, how often they are cleaned, which vaccinations they have, and what their medical histories are! I don’t know these things about strangers’ pets and I’m enough of a misanthrope that I don’t trust other people to be conscientious owners so I assume the worst.

Here is a list of illnesses people can get from dogs from the CDC’s website.

If my pets were to get a communicable illness for whatever reason, I would not want them to pass it to others. If grocery stores were to allow dogs, it’s very possible they would transform into a short step above common dog parks and the chance for diseases would increase dramatically. In the past few years we’ve had quite a few parvo outbreaks in Western Washington. Here’s just one story from Google.

2) Dogs can behave in unpredictable way, which can result in bites to other animals or people. A dog may also urinate, defecate, vomit, bark, run, or growl, among other undesirable behaviors.

Be honest: pretty much everyone knows another person (or is that person) who has a sketchy dog and this dog will bite. It may be due to anxiety or fear or aggression but it really doesn’t matter–a dog bite often is a very traumatic experience–and very preventable–experience.

The person whose dog bites knows that their dog bites. They try to keep an eye on it. But they can’t watch their dog 100% of the time, especially when their primary focus isn’t their dog but their groceries. So the dog bites someone. And there are actual dog-bite attorneys who are more than happy to help the person sue your buns off.

These behaviors are, of course, extremes. Most behaviors that are encountered every day are not this extreme but are incredibly annoying. A dog that does not respect the boundaries of others is probably #1 on that list. While there are some people who don’t mind a strange dog walking directly to them and smelling their ass, there are some people who do.

Assuming you have a well-groomed, vaccinated, well-behaved dog…

Well, it sucks to be you because there are a lot of people whose dogs are not all of those things. So any time one of these ill-trained beasts misbehaves in public, it gives a bad name to all good dogs and responsible owners. Feel free to address the problem yourself and attempt to restore some dignity to the perception of Seattle dog owners. I personally would be happy to switch things up on a trial basis if all the dogs were properly behaved and maintained.

Of course, trained service dogs don’t have the behavioral problems but may have health issues. Until service dog status–or the health of all dogs–is more tightly regulated, the ADA will continue to provide service dogs with carte blanche on this.

Unfortunately, service dog status is not federally regulated status. I say “unfortunately” because if there were a certification that owners could obtain, then they could very easily count themselves as proud owners of truly licensed, regulated, and trained service animals. Just as a restaurant must pass a variety of health codes, I think it would be incredibly beneficial to regulate service animals: for the dogs, the owners, and the public–both the ignorant and the informed. Fringe benefits could be that all owners also receive a medical ID card or bracelet indicating the services their animal performs in case of accident or emergency, and that this certification could assist in insuring service dogs for the full value in case of accident, illness, injury, or death. (These are, of course, hypothetical.)

It is very possible that if such legislation were to one day be enacted, these canines would be considered the models of behavior for all other dogs. Maybe that would have a ripple effect, where their conduct comes to be accepted as the standard and the minimum level of training expected of all pets is significantly improved.

On a separate issue, I have read conflicting information on how to approach a customer with a dog and whether it is a service animal. The WA State Human Rights Commission site states that the customer may be asked if the animal is required because of a disability. When I worked in a doctor’s office, we were instructed not to ask any questions if a patient were to bring a dog, as even asking questions could open us up in terms of liability.

I hope people continue to examine this issue and their beliefs surrounding it. Open, constructive conversations should always be welcome.

8 thoughts on “No More Dogs in Grocery Stores: A Reasonable Reader Responds

  1. The Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a federal law, says businesses can ask customers if their dog is a service dog and they can ask what tasks the dog is trained to perform. As far as service dogs being regular dogs with the spark snuffed out, it’s apparent this author has little experience with service dogs. Right now my service dog is happily playing with a teddy bear that squeaks, running around my house and rolling on the floor and having a grand time. He has plenty of sparkl

  2. The idea that it’s okay to bring ANIMALS into places where people eat is inherently problematic, that’s why we have food safety laws. Also problematic is the idea that it’s everyone else’s responsibility to worry whether someone’s dog is well behaved or not, which is the expectation if dogs are allowed to be wherever their owners feel like.

  3. My friend has a service dog that has PLENTY of spark! The first day I met him, he did attack me in my side of the booth we were sharing. That old english sheepdog proceeded to jump up on me and lick the skin off my face! He knew I needed that, so it was allowed. My friend does not allow him to do that, but because it was a need, she allowed it. That dog was the epitome of perfectness until he sensed I needed doggie loving.

  4. Pure, unadulterated, ignorance! You have sick people running all over the place passing the flu around and you’re worried about a dog getting you sick? Get real! Study up on those things you think you can get from a dog and see what the real chances are. Slim to none. If it were so we’d have a bunch of dead vets, groomers, dog trainers, breeders and dog owners killed by their dog’s condition. That’s not the case. People like your are overly paranoid fear mongers.

    As far a regulating service dogs to make it hard and expensive on disabled people. Their lives are hard enough already. But self-centered people like you only think about yourselves. Maybe one day you’ll get to experience it yourself then you’ll eat your words.

    1. Ada..I dont know you…but dang I am right with you…My Friend has a service Dog, not because she paid some company 100’s of dollars but because hers picked up on her condition. He saved her live several times, seizures come when they want …not when it is convenient. he dog alerts her in time so she can lay down or sit and she can let her sister know….She takes him everywhere and he most certainly is healthier and cleaner then most people she encounters…..

  5. Can I bring my python into Starbucks? He isn’t certified but he’s cleaner than a homeless person as one commenter said.

    Is the “general cuteness” of the animal the determining factor in what’s publicly acceptable?

    If your dog isn’t a service dog, your an asshole for taking it to the store, period.

  6. John, I met a guy at QFC who had a small (18 inches) python with him. She was gorgeous and I love snakes, so we started to chat, but I can see how that could be a problem, given that many people have extreme snake phobias.

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