Only Authentic Service Dogs Belong in Grocery Stores and Restaurants

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I was at the Redding Grocery Outlet last night where I heard it before I saw it: loud barking, somewhere near the dairy section. It was the kind of sound a dog makes when it’s threatened, like, hey, back off. It was a deep bark, like that of a big dog.


And last week I went to JOANN Fabric and Craft store with my sister where I saw a woman standing in line getting fabric cut who had a powerful looking pit bull on a leash. Why oh why oh why? Every time someone walked past the woman, the dog lunged and sniffed at the shopper.

That dog looked strong enough that he could have whipped that woman around the store with no problem.

While its master had her attention on fabric, her dog had its attention on shoppers.

Yes, I know pit bulls can be sweet dogs, and this one was probably just saying a friendly “hello”. But it made me nervous enough that my heart was pounding and I put as much distance between me and that dog as possible.

Along these same lines, I’m not a fan of shopping at places that have store pets, whether it’s a cat in a fancy Ashland shoe store or a dog in a cute little Redding yarn shop. I’m allergic to cats, and have about 20 minutes in a cat-hair environment before I start feeling the effects and have to bolt for the exit. I’m assuming it’s the same for people who are allergic to dogs.

Let me just get this out of the way: I like dogs. I was raised since age 7 with a spunky doxie named Ginger Snap (yes, she did).

Doni, age 7, on East St. in Redding with Ginger Snap.

And when my kids were growing up, we had a long-haired doxie named Wes, and then a golden retriever named Emma, and finally, Joe’s little white hound mutt, Bazooka. All great dogs.

Even so, for the life of me I just don’t understand why so many people think it’s OK to bring their pet dogs with them everywhere they go.  It’s getting way out of hand. Dogs in restaurants, dogs in stores, dogs in hair salons, dogs at camp sites, dogs on beaches, dogs in the post office, dogs pretty much everywhere, except maybe medical and dental offices, at least not that I’ve seen.

The thing is, as much as I like dogs, I do not like to share my grocery shopping or dining experience with them, for a number of reasons.

First, it’s a health risk. I don’t like the idea that the same place I’m placing my food purchases may have also held a couple of dog bodies (and possible residual fleas, ticks, poop, pee, ringworm, etc.) a few minutes earlier.

Dogs take a ride in a Redding grocery store basket. Photo by Doni Chamberlain.

Second, it grosses me out when dogs pee inside stores, as I saw one large dog do inside Home Depot last year. He lifted his leg and urinated on a post, most likely to mark his territory because he smelled that another dog had been there.

Third, sometimes I feel afraid of dogs in stores, especially when the dogs get aggressive toward strangers (customers), or other dogs, which is exactly what happened inside Redding’s Pine Street Safeway about a year ago. Two dogs, straining on their leashes, teeth bared, hair standing up on their backs, barking at each other. Freaked me out.

I have no problem with bona fide service dogs. In fact, I love seeing a real service dog in a store, the epitome of precision canine training.

I have known two people who’ve had a real service dog. One was my friend, after her stroke, who relied upon her lovely whippet during her recovery. That dog was a godsend. The second is a young man – a Wounded Warrior – here in Redding, who has a service dog that’s this young man’s constant helper and companion. In both cases, these dogs are highly trained service animals.

They fit the definition of a service dog according to the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) publication on Service Animals: “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”

Because of this ADA regulation, service dogs are basically allowed to accompany their owners almost anywhere that’s a public place, from stores, public beaches and restaurants, to sporting events, schools, hospitals and even movie theaters, such as Wednesday, when the young veteran brought his beautiful black lab to La bohème at Movies 14 in Redding for the dog’s first opera. The dog was washed and groomed before his trip to the theater, because it was such a special occasion for both dog and master.

Service dogs are beloved animals to their owners, but they are not pets. They are animals trained to be of assistance to people who have all kinds of disabilities: physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or even mental disabilities, such as PTSD.

Authentic service dog owners know the rules, such as the fact their dogs must be harnessed, leashed or tethered. They know that if that’s impossible because of limitations posed by a specific disability, then the owner must maintain full control of the dog via hand signals, voice commands or other means of control.

There’s more. It can be disaster when the genuine service dogs encounter untrained, off-leash pets in public. That’s exactly what happened to the young Marine Corps veteran at Whiskeytown Lake last year. The veteran’s dog was being trained in the water when two dogs came bounding down the hill, barking aggressively at the service dog. The veteran yelled to the woman, who was far behind her dogs, to get control of her animals. She laughed it off. It was a very tense few minutes with the veteran hollering and the woman getting defensive and belligerent. The untrained dogs eventually lost interest and moved on. This incident supremely rattled the veteran, who had pulled out his bear-strength pepper spray and was at the ready to unload it on the untrained dogs. It took all day for him to recover from the encounter.

But I digress.

So here we are now. More and more non-disabled folks believe it’s unfair that only the disabled can bring their dogs with them in public places. They want their dogs with them, too.

Do you remember how it was in the beginning? At first the pet owners disguised their dogs with fake vests, and brought them in public places with them, trying to pass off their pets as service dogs.

Not every dog that wears a service-dog vest is an authentic service dog. People who knowingly put fake vests on untrained dogs are committing fraud. Photo courtesy of Carla Jackson.

It worked, mainly because so many business owners feared getting slapped with an ADA lawsuit that they didn’t want to take the risk of challenging the pet owners.

After successfully testing the water with family pets in public places for a few years, people soon dropped the pretense of the fake service-dog vest entirely and just brought their pets in the stores as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

And that’s the way it’s been ever since.

Many stores, such as Redding’s Safeway on Pine Street and Holiday Market on Placer, have posted signs at the entrance that say only service dogs are allowed.

That doesn’t seem to phase some people, who see the signs as optional.

Dogs, like this one – far left – wearing the rain slicker, are regular visitors at Redding’s Pine Street Safeway.

According to the ADA, when store owners don’t see an identifying service-dog vest, they can ask only two questions: 1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? 2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

That’s it. Just those two questions. They are not allowed to ask to see any documentation for the dog, or ask for the dog to demonstrate its task, or ask about the nature of the person’s disability.

And although most service dog owners make sure their dogs wear a special vest when they’re out in public, according to the ADA, a service animal is not required to wear a vest, ID tag or specific harness. Basically, it can look like any other dog, even a dog wearing a yellow raincoat.

I know a grocery store clerk who said that where she works, employees are instructed by management to not confront shoppers about their dogs, because it’s too volatile a situation with some pet owners, and not worth the potential scene. So the clerks say nothing.

This has been on my mind since last year, when I read a Facebook post written by someone who’d gone out to eat at a downtown Redding restaurant. A couple not only brought their family pet along, but they allowed it to eat at the table. Most of the diners were mortified. Wait staff saw it, looked the other way and did nothing.

Another Facebook friend, someone who is a self-described dog-lover, told of her similar experience at Olive Garden.

We were seated when this lady comes in with a long-haired dog in a basket with a baby blanket. She walked in with an arrogant look, like she knew people probably wouldn’t be thrilled but, too bad. She sat directly behind me.

The dog was put on the seat and was eye level with the table. We had just gotten our food when the lady with the dog started talking about how her dog had just been to the groomer. Well, it seems they found fleas on the little fluff ball and she continued to discuss how she was sure her little baby had gotten the fleas from the groomer and did not have them prior. Then she said they couldn’t treat her because she has a reaction to flea meds. Really? so you bring the dog into a place people are eating? Fleas are like spring-loaded. They can jump far in any direction. How is this OK?</em

Feeding dogs people food and bringing them into restaurants when you know they have bugs is not OK! I have decided if that happens again, I am walking out.

I can’t blame my friend. I think I would have walked out, too, if restaurant staff ignored a dog at a table. I realize that people love their pets. And sometimes, I confess that I’ll see an especially cute dog peeking out from a woman’s purse inside a store that makes me soften my stance against pets in public places.

Case in point is the man who shops at Home Depot on a regular basis who’s accompanied by at least four Australian cattle dogs. Those dogs are a joy to watch. The man signals the dogs, who respond with sharp turns, and stick smartly to the man’s side the whole time.

It’s a tough call, because clearly, those Australian cattle dogs are working dogs of another kind. But bringing them to Home Depot is one thing. I’d probably feel differently if they were in a restaurant, or a grocery store.

And there’s my favorite handyman, who always brought his dog with him when he worked at my house, which was fine with me. He also brings him to Home Depot and Lowe’s. This dog is such a joyful comforting companion to this man that the dog is pretty much serving as a de facto service dog.

I don’t know what the answer is. Many pet owners ignore service-dogs-only signs posed in stores. Most store employees ignore the rule-breaking owners who bring their pets.

Meanwhile, we shoppers and diners; we’re on our own. Like it or not, everything’s gone to the dogs.


For more information, here are some related articles we’ve posted on this subject over the years:

“One Smart Dog” by Darcie Gore. 

“Fly the Friendly Skies With … Pets” by Darcie Gore.

“Service Dog Fraud” by Carla Jackson.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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78 Responses

  1. Avatar conservative says:

    Agree. This disgusting behavior seems to have started in the last 10-20 years.

    I object to birds flying around inside supermarkets. Dogs are not associated with food borne illness. Birds are.

    Bird feces is highly likely to contain salmonella. Salmonella species are normal flora in the gut of birds.
    Public service announcements at thanksgiving remind that raw poultry is a frequent source of salmonella food poisoning. The CDC reported outbreaks of salmonella from backyard chickens.

    Eating an apple on the drive home is a risk I have taken. All produce should be washed before eating.

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Our life seems to revolve around our dog, but we’d never take her inside any building except the vet hospital. In fact, the reason we have a second home in Redding is that we couldn’t leave our dog at home during the time it takes to drive the two hours to Redding, run errands, then make the two-hour drive back. Leave her outside? Nope. We have mountain lions, bears, and other fauna that would like her for dinner. I’m always taken aback when I see Fido in any store, Fido, that is, who isn’t obviously a service dog. In that instance, I’m more than a little impressed. One other place you didn’t mention where dog owners and their dogs are an annoyance: the farmer markets. What’s with these people who can’t leave their dogs at home while they shop?

  3. Avatar Judy Smith says:

    Not to mention THE BELEAGUERED LIBRARY! I have seen “comfort dogs” lunging and snapping at library patrons, including children. Their function and presence apparently can’t be challenged. Legitimate service dogs could have some form of identification as such–something one can’t just obtain on the internet!

  4. Avatar Patricia Bay says:

    Timely article, Doni, and as always, well written. I have also wondered and been amazed at so many dogs in shopping places, especially those that sell and serve food. I know a person who has a very feisty little dog that was registered as a service dog. This person brags that it was done simply so it could be taken everywhere without being challenged. The dog bit another friend at a gathering. Not just a nip, either. It was a break the skin, bleeding, needed stiches bite. The person still brings the dog everywhere. I believe the whole dog thing goes along with the inflated sense of entitlement that we are seeing in many people.

    • Bingo, Dr. Patty hits the nail on the head: “I believe the whole dog thing goes along with the inflated sense of entitlement that we are seeing in many people.”

      I agree!

      Also, regarding the person you know with the feisty little biting dog, it makes me wonder exactly what it took for that dog to be “registered” as a service dog. As friend Darcie points out here, genuine service dogs require hundreds of hours of training.

      I also wonder, if someone were to ask the owner of the feisty biting dog to answer those two magic service-dog questions, how would the owner respond? 1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? 2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

    • Avatar Peeved Handler says:

      True service dogs have nearly 2000 hours (2 years) of task and public access training. This includes socialization, and teaching to ignore people, other dogs, and various distractions. A dog showing aggression, nervousness, shyness, or otherwise not having an interest in work would normally be washed out. A dog that has bitten would be retired.

      All dogs go through training stages where they do stupid, and embarrassing things. They’re dogs after all, and not robots. But aggressiveness is absolutely *not* tolerated.

      If your “friend” continues to drag her dog around, claiming it to be a “service dog”, then she should be aware that the next time it bites someone, or even a legitimate service dog, she could end up (depending on what state you live in) facing felony charges of interfering with a service dog, injuring a service dog, injuring a disabled person (if the handler is bitten), misdemeanor/felony (depending on state) faking a service dog.

      Many states are starting to crack down on faking service dogs. They’re making it a crime. They’re taking dogs away, fining owners, and giving them jail time. She may not be required to shove work or tasks to a grocery store manager, but she Damn well will have to show them to a judge.

  5. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    We had an employee for a couple of years who had a “service dog,” which he needed for some reason he ginned up out of thin air—the real reason is that he didn’t want to leave his dog when he was on the road for a week at a time. Since the dog went with him everywhere, that meant on the road to do fieldwork, in our work vehicles. The dog was a shedder. My yellow lab sheds, and I wouldn’t think of taking her along in someone else’s vehicle.

    We talked about taking a hard stand, but decided that we didn’t want to jump into an ABA tar pit. We settled on telling him that if he didn’t vacuum all of the dog hair out after each shift, we’d pay to have the car cleaned and deduct the cost from his expense check. He didn’t want to spend his off-days getting the rig cleaned at a car wash, so it was on us, which was a recurring pain in the ass. If we paid an employee to take the rig to the car wash, we didn’t charge for the employee’s labor—just the direct cost of the cleaning. He probably could have sued us just for the expense deduction.

    Every once in a while I agree with my conservative buddies on stuff like this. It sucks not being able to call people on their bullshit.

  6. Avatar DBC says:

    Kids, crying in diapers leaking all over where people place their food……..

  7. Avatar Jeri B says:

    Great article Doni. I so agree with you and the others who have replied. It grosses me out at the grocery store to see a dog in the cart, like you I don’t want my food where a dogs feces more than likely is on the cart or hear barking while I shop. Thankfully, I have missed out on a non-service dogs in a restaurants. I love my dog but I will never take him where a dog doesn’t belong. It is time to only see service dogs in businesses, I’m tired of out of control “pet owners” passing their dogs off as service dogs. Those that have services dogs are respectful and you should respect that “service” dogs are not pets, so don’t run up to pet them.

    • Good point, Jorgi. I should have mentioned that. I think it would be a public service for people with authentic service dogs to take them into schools to educate kids, who can maybe educate their parents.

      But you’re right. A service dog is there only for its master, not for the public to pet or even address. Many service dog vests have a “please don’t touch” sign, but many people pet first, and read second (if at all).

  8. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Service dogs preform a service most of us take for granted that many disabled can’t do. I have never seen a service cat or bird on a leash guiding it’s owner through crowds or crossing streets.
    Comfort animals, all kinds, are not to be confused with service animals. As the recent confrontations over comfort animals on planes has shown this is a real problem. It will take a concentrated effort by others to solve this. If I see an obviously non service dog in a eating place I will leave and tell the manager why and not go back into their business.
    Lawsuits are a real concern for businesses as many ambulance chasing lawyers make their living filing bogus ADA lawsuits. One in Phoenix has been barred from filing ADA lawsuits because he has filed so many, he has over 90 before the courts right now. While most get settled with a few thousand dollar blackmail fee to make the suit go away times that against the many lawsuits he files. All the lawsuits are filed over the same disabled person, who receives a coup[e hundred dollars for each complaint, the lawyer gets the rest. I could see the next scam game could be suing businesses that stand up to fake comfort animals.
    I would really like to see an article from Dugan Barr on what the legal profession is doing about these blackmail scams from these crooks. They reflect badly on the true legal professionals that are rightfully needed.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Regulating the legal profession is tough. It’s a lot to ask a profession to police itself—get the lawyers to tell their cohorts that they can’t be a bunch of Saul Goodmans (“Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”). And then there’s the typical legislature with its relatively high percentage of lawyers—good luck getting regulations that constrain the profession.

      Many countries have torts systems where if you sue someone and lose, you are liable for their court costs incurred to defend themselves. That seems reasonable, but don’t hold your breath. (I’d wager Mr. Barr would argue that adopting such a system is the worst idea ever.)

  9. Avatar Darcie says:

    Service dog fraud is crime! Doni is right, service dogs have hundreds of hours of training and have passed public access training and testing.
    A person trying to pass off a pet as a service dog, should be challenged if their behavior, or that of the dog , gives them away. Service dogs will not be sitting at the table, eating people food, lunging, jumping, barking fighting with other dogs etc. A business has the right to ask a person (even with a real service dog) to leave if the animal is disruptive. The dog has to give complete attention on the person with disability and the tasks at hand to keep the person safe.

    Shame on those that jeopardize access for real working dogs because they want to take their pets with them! Shame on business owners that allow obvious pets in their businesses and jeopardize the safety of their customers and real service dogs.

    • You know the facts about this subject better than almost anyone, Darcie, and I appreciate you so much for sharing your insight.

      I was hoping you’d comment. 🙂

      Thank you for all you’ve done to educate the public on this important topic. (I’ll add links in my story to your articles, as well as one by dog trainer Carla Jackson who addressed this subject.)

      • Avatar Darcie says:

        As you know Doni, even through Bailey IS a trained Service Dog, I have recovered (with her help) enough not to need to her for daily tasks anymore. I would not think of taking her in a store or other business unless it was necessary. There was a service dog that was attacked on Sacramento Light Rail by a dog the owner was trying to pass as a service dog. The blind person did couldn’t see the pet g lunge at his dog and the SD was bitten. It was amazing this incident didn’t put an end to that SD working!

    • Avatar K. Beck says:

      Thank you, Darcie!

      “Shame on…” exactly!

  10. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Dog Gone It!…..When “Comfort” dogs are passed for Service Animals!

    In Total Agreement with you on this one Doni!!…Keep the Dogs in the Car or leave them home!

    My guess is a dog owner threatened to SUE at one time or another in these stores….and now we have this to deal with!

    And what the Hell is a “Comfort” animal anyways?…I have heard this one in a store once when the shopper said to the owner…hey you are not supposed to do that!….Oh….It’s my Comfort animal she retorted!

  11. Avatar conservative says:

    The health department could issue violations if there were a food borne illness due to dogs, but there isn’t.

    Sensible people leave their dogs in the car at the supermarket. Mine always is behind the steering wheel when I return. He seems to think he can learn how to drive that way.

    When it is too hot to leave the dog in the car, I park on the far end of the lot and tie him up to the bumper. The walk is good for me. I had one great dog I could tie up to the bicycle rack in the shade and he wagged his tail at strangers but otherwise ignored them.

  12. James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

    My service dog can whip your service dog. Any time, any store, any aisle.

  13. Avatar Sue K says:

    You are my gal!!! This ‘dog business in stores etc.’ has been grinding at me for a loooonnnng time. Thank you for writing another great article on this subject.

  14. Avatar George says:

    This really comes down to people taking advantage of situations and/or ruining it for the good people who follow the law. We have become such a tolerant society that we are afraid to say no to so many situations that push the envelope. We had dinner at the new Sheraton a couple of weeks ago and three dogs were in the restaurant. Really? I’m as frustrated as the rest of you with dog owners and the way they have miss handled these public places.

    • I agree, George. But I am not sure it’s a matter so much of being tolerant, but being afraid, as I confess I am from time to time. What if the person is unreasonable, defensive and makes a scene? What if, in the case of the pit bull, above, he decides to “protect” his master?

      I will never forget a horrible incident some years back inside a downtown Redding restaurant. (And I think I’ve mentioned it here before, so those of you who remember, humor me as I repeat it.) Anyway, it was a situation with two booths, back to back. One booth held a family: dad, mom their 6-year-old little girl and the woman’s father. The other booth held a couple engaged in some wild, loud conversation liberally peppered with f-bombs. When the mother took the little girl to the restroom, the father got the couple’s attention and asked if they could watch their language, please, out of respect for his elderly father-in-law and young child.

      Can you guess what happened? The cussing man shot up out of the booth, grabbed the father and threw him through the store’s glass entrance. The mother came out of the bathroom with her daughter to this scene, and the cussing woman starts yelling at the mother.

      It was pandemonium, and of course the restaurant staff called 911, but it all happened in a matter of seconds. The cussing people ran out, and were not caught. Meanwhile, the father’s eye was damaged, and perhaps worst of all, it changed him forever.

      He told me (I was interviewing him for a story that he eventually decided he didn’t want published) he’d been raised to stand up for what was right, especially when it came to honoring and protecting his family. It was an emasculating experience for him, because he said he’d never confront someone like that again.

      So, there you go. This is what it’s come to.

      • Avatar K. Beck says:

        What ever happened to those signs in restaurant windows that said, “We have the right to refuse service to anyone,” or something like that? Is that illegal now?

  15. By the way, I added the photo, above, of the pit bull I saw with its owner in the JOANN store.

    Also, I woke up and remembered an incident my sister told me about that involved the veteran and his service dog at Whiskeytown that could have ended very badly. I added that part, above, too. (Ah, the beauty of online publishing.)

    I’m loving this conversation. Thanks for all the great input (and I appreciate the guys’ levity, too).

  16. Avatar name says:

    The comfort animal thing has become way out of control on the airlines. I am glad that the airlines are finally cracking down on this. If you cannot fly without some kind of random animal, then do not fly at all (or just buck up, and leave the animal at home).

  17. Avatar Melissa Fraizer says:

    This is my biggest pet peeve. Lol
    They should be made to show that they are a service dog. A lot of people come into the clinic to get notes for their animals saying that it’s a service dog. Our doctors write a note saying it’s a “companion” they won’t write service dog. Service dogs are trained, and they surely don’t lick themselves in the grocery store.

    • Avatar Jeanette says:

      There’s no such thing as registration, certification, documentation, or ID for service dogs. It’s illegal to ask for any proof the dog is a service dog and the handler is not required to carry any, according to the ADA. It’s a matter of civil rights. If a non-disabled person does not have to show anything to enter a place of business, then a disabled person should not have to either. Q:17 Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?
      A: No. Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has
      been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.

      There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration
      documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the
      Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

  18. Avatar Jennifer says:

    There is a difference between a legitimate service animal (which usually has some form of ID on it) and a “comfort/ companion animal”. The comfort animal issue is being abused left and right. I’m not sure how a chihuahua that could fit in a purse (and starts shaking the minute a stranger looks at it) would be qualified to be a service animal? I’m an animal lover, but this is a huge pet peeve of mine.

    • Avatar Jeanette says:

      There’s no such thing as registration, certification, documentation, or ID for service dogs. It’s illegal to ask for any proof the dog is a service dog and the handler is not required to carry any, according to the ADA. It’s a matter of civil rights. If a non-disabled person does not have to show anything to enter a place of business, then a disabled person should not have to either. They are also not required to wear a vest or patch.
      Q: 8 Do service animals have to wear a vest or patch or special harness identifying them as service animals?
      A: No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.
      Q: 17 Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?
      A: No. Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has
      been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.

      There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration
      documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the
      Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

    • Avatar Peeved Handler says:

      Service dogs can be any breed of dog or size of dog. Chihuahuas, Pugs, and other small breeds can be trained for hearing, seizure response, diabetic alert, and PTSD dogs.

  19. Avatar Mitsy says:

    Lets not forget that landlords cannot refuse a renter having a comfort/companion/therapy dog, even if they do not want pets in the rental! It’s one reason I am selling out my rental. The renters have too many rights over the landowner’s rights.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      I used to just accept tenant ADA requests at face value, but I had one horrible experience that altered my policies. This “emotional support” pit bull would bark, dig holes, chew on door jams, pull out carpeting, etc. The tenant defended the dog by saying “that is just how he (the dog) deals with his anxiety.” -Who is emotionally supporting whom?!

      I wound up going through the eviction process (which is awful for everybody involved) and having to document that allowing this particular dog was not a “reasonable accommodation.” Ultimately I prevailed, but of course the deposit didn’t even cover the cost of carpet.

      Afterward, I looked into it and HUD rules allow you to ask for “documentation of the disability and disability-related need for the assistance animal if the disability is not known or readily-apparent.” Since then, I have had a number of people apply claiming to have emotional support dogs, but only 1 had a letter from a doctor (and that dog was sweet & well behaved – go figure).

      The other policy I changed was requiring all tenants to carry rental insurance and to list me as additional insured. These policies *should* cover tenant liability from unintentional damage, but I haven’t had to file a claim and find out…

      • Avatar Richard Christoph says:

        “The other policy I changed was requiring all tenants to carry rental insurance and to list me as additional insured.”

        Great idea.

      • Regarding the whole issue of a “doctor’s note” for comfort pets, these are in a whole other unofficial category from authentic service dogs.

        I wonder if the HUD rules stipulate service animals versus comfort pets, and that you, as the landlord, could hold out and only rent to people with genuine service animals?

        My guess is that your tenant with the “emotional support” pit bull was not a certified service dog.

        What a headache for you!

        • Avatar Tim says:

          A place of public accommodation, like a grocery store or restaurant, has to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act (in addition to any state anti-discrimination laws). These rules still allow the store owner to exclude assistance animals which have not been specifically trained to perform a task (emotional support animals).

          Housing has to follow not only the ADA, but also the Fair Housing Act. A landlord cannot deny housing to someone with an assistance animal, even if the animal has not been trained at all.
          (click on “what is an assistance animal”).

          There are couple of exceptions. The Fair Housing Act does not apply to single family residences as long as the owner does not own more than 3 homes. It also does not apply to small apartments with 4 or less units as long as the owner occupies one of the units.

  20. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    A few years ago, The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, held a seminar in Tule Lake that I attended. No dogs were allowed, not even those owned by the people who sponsored the seminar. One attendee came in with his bogus service dog and was told he couldn’t bring the dog. He became very irate and made a scene. Someone called 911, and the police came quickly. The “victim” put up a ruckus and ended up on the floor with a pretend heart attack. The police, of course, had to respond and called for the ambulance, and off the jerk went. I’ve often wondered what happened to the dog when the idiot left in the ambulance.

  21. Sounds like Assembly Member Dahle needs to do some legislative amendment to the current state law on this very matter. Anyone gonna call his office and begin the discussion ?

    • Avatar K. Beck says:

      Great idea Frank. And State Senator Gains.

      People can’t park in handicap parking places, I see no reason “pets” in public places can’t also be regulated.

      Here you all go:

      District: CA SD1
      Senator Ted Gaines
      Capitol Office
      State Capitol, Room 3076
      Sacramento, CA 95814
      Phone: (916) 651-4001
      Fax: (916) 651-4901

      Redding Constituent Service Center
      1900 Churn Creek Road, Suite 204
      Redding, CA 96002
      Phone: (530) 224-7001
      Fax: (530) 224-7005

      District: CA AD1
      Assembly Member Brian Dahle
      State Capitol, Suite 4098
      Sacramento, CA 94249

      280 Hemsted Drive, Suite 110
      Redding, CA 96002

  22. PS…that’ll put some teeth into the law…heh, heh !

  23. Avatar Scott Hamilton says:

    Thank you for this. There were four dogs in Unsafeway last night. FOUR. And one, a pit bull, was being dragged around, literally, by a piece of rope. No way these were service dogs, at least not all of them, and my first thought was hygiene, while my second was safety.

    Four years ago when we adopted our then-puppy from Pets Without Partners, we stopped at Costco for supplies and were stopped by the clerk at the door, told we could not bring him in the store in a tone that suggested we’d committed a crime. My kids remember it to this day. Now, you routinely see multiple dogs in the store, much like other businesses around town.

    I realize there is a legitimate need for service dogs for a segment of the community. But, it seems this clear this allowance is being abused by many who, like Paris Hilton, just don’t want to go anywhere without their pets. I applaud businesses like Holiday Market which has a sign on the door indicating they reserve the right to remove non-service animals. I think many other businesses have just given up.

  24. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Excellent article, Doni. We love dogs and especially our two 15 1/2 year old doxies, and I thoroughly enjoy working with the rescue dogs at Haven Humane each Monday. But seeing some dog owners flout not only the law but also basic human consideration for others is infuriating.

  25. Avatar Shelly Shively says:

    Great topic, Doni! The issue of non-service dogs in retail places is a “pet” peeve of mine.
    Recently, upon walking into Redding’s Ross store, I was confronted by a barking, lunging pit bull on a leash held by a young man, just a few feet from the store security guard. Incredulous, I protested to the security guard about the dog, to which he responded, “dogs are allowed in the store.” I left, and later, called the store manager: same response.
    I volunteer as a kayak guide at Whiskeytown, where “No Dogs” is well posted. Last year, we had guests that insisted upon bringing their dog on the kayak tour. When the ranger said “No”, the couple immediately said that their dog was a service dog, and said we had to allow the dog. The smug couple paddled along, with the dog, while some of the other guests lamented that they wished they’d brought their dog too.
    Along those lines, we did take a group of Wounded Warrior vets, along with service dogs, kayaking. This guided tour is specific for guests with disabilities, which is called Special Access.
    I was able to get permission, as a kayak guide, to take out the vet, his service dog, and his wife for a paddle. The incident in this article is what happened when we pulled into Davis Gulch, so the dog could get in the water for retrieval training. The vet wasn’t the only one rattled by that experience: the out-of-control dogs and their owner were extremely threatening. I wished I had the authority to cite the woman for bringing dogs, when not allowed, and worse, off leash and out of control.
    I heartily agree about the unhealthy aspect of non-service dogs, especially where there is food. Leave your pets at home!

  26. Avatar Sarah Kashuba says:

    I loved the article Donnie. I work with a lot of dogs training wise. If I am gonna bring Blaze somewhere thats not usually dog oriented for training and there is no sign posted, I always try to ask, if I cant find somebody I go else where. If they don’t want a dog in the store ,I don’t push it. I go somewhere else. In the summer time up here I just don’t take my dogs out to places because of the heat. I never say Blaze is a service dog at all. Because I don’t need him for that line of work. I have no health or physical issues that would require help.Id be lying and thats what is when people claim their dog is a service dog but just wants them there. I don’t like how people are disrespectful about it now a days when it comes to bringing their dog somewhere. I love dogs too, but if someone in the store is uncomfortable with my dog then I will not stay around and make them be around my dog. There as you said people with allergies to dogs and there are also (not sure if you mentioned it) people who are scared of dogs, who might’ve gotten bit in the past.

    • Sarah, I know you are a conscientious dog trainer and responsible owner. It sounds like you are respectful of the rules, and if there’s a sign posted, then you go elsewhere.

      You’re right that there are some people who are afraid of dogs (I lean that way with big dogs) , and that’s another consideration in this discussion.

    • Avatar K. Beck says:

      Yes, there are people who are in fear of dogs, and people are allergic. And, no one wants fleas and ticks, either…not to mention dog feces (and probably pee) smeared everywhere the dog sits down. There I said it.

      If you own a dog, cat, parrot, gerbil, or any other pet keep it at home.

      Where did this that “I have the right to bring my pet everywhere” idea come from in the beginning?

  27. Avatar K. Beck says:

    I SO AGREE! I am more aggressive, I guess. When I see someone in a business, any business, I ask the owner to take the dog to the car. I walked up to someone once and started to say something when I noticed it was a service dog in training! So I chit chatted with the trainer and thanked him for his time and service! Good thing I noticed that before I said anything.

    I am allergic to dogs.

    Perhaps before Haven Humane gives away dogs they should put the owners through some sort of training. I would start with how to train a dog NOT TO BARK. This CAN be done!

    I was in the Holiday Market on Hartnell one day in the summer time. Someone parked their car in a parking space right in front of the sliding doors. The dog in that car barked, non-stop, the whole time the owner was in the store. Because of the position of the car, windows down, the barking reverberated through out the WHOLE store and bounced off the back wall, so there was a echo. If I had a gun I would have shot it! This is why I don’t own a gun! I complained to the check out clerk who shrugged his shoulders.

    Once I was given an office to share with a co-worker. I walked in and immediately smelled dog smells. Dog smells make me gag. She didn’t have the dog at work that day and we had a discussion about me sharing MY office with a dog. NO WAY, NO HOW! It was a pleasant conversation, she agreed to have the custodial staff clean the carpet and get all the dog hair and smells out of the room. This could have been really ugly.

    Regarding dogs in shopping carts…long ago I decided ALL unwrapped produce, cans, bags, etc. in grocery stores are totally contaminated. I thoroughly wash all fruit & vegetables. Not only are the carts a mess of germs, so is everything that has had millions of hands touching it, and all the stuff that lands on the floor that is picked up and put back in with other things in the bins, & on shelves, not to mention that rotating thing at the check out stands. I worked in clean rooms for over 30 years, I know all about cross contamination. Trust me on this.

    If no one ever says anything to these dog-people they will continue to do what they are doing. AND you really need to complain to the management of the stores. We no-pets-in-stores-&-restaurants outnumber the inconsiderate people who bring their pets with them everywhere. But, if we remain silent we will forever by complaining about this to no avail.

    Many letters to “Corporate” would get their attention. All you need to do is go on line, get the address, copy Doni’s article, write in big RED letters: I AGREE WITH THIS ARTICLE! Pleas do something about keeping pets out of your “what ever type of” stores. Put your name and address on the note and put it in the mail.

    Stop complaining to each other and DO something!

  28. Avatar Common Sense says:

    So perhaps one of the Attorney columnists or someone familiar with the laws can answer this one- If a “Comfort” dog Bites a kid in the store who is liable? Perhaps the Store owners need to know that this a “Liability” issue for them?
    We all know kids are just curious….if the owner is away from the cart and the child goes to pet the animal and is bit……who is responsible?

    • Avatar Jeanette says:

      The dog owner is. Perhaps the owner lied said it was a “service” dog and knew the answers to give to the 2 legal questions asked. Also, FYI there are some state laws that allow ESA’s in non pet friendly places.

  29. Avatar Jorgi B says:

    I, too, am an animal lover. At the moment, I have no dogs, but have had in the past. I would never dream of taking a pet in a store of any kind, let alone in a restaurant. What a load! These people have no respect for anyone who does not agree with them. I’m all in favor of service dogs and have great respect for their training. They are the only animals that should be allowed in stores, restaurants, etc. Great article, Doni. This is one of my great peeves. I think we should follow K. Beck’s advice.

  30. Avatar AJ says:

    I did leave in the middle of a meal one time. I made it a point to find the manager and make certain he knew why I was leaving and would never be back to that restaurant. I also wrote corporate office stating that I would never again patronize their venues and I made sure they knew why. Yes, it cost me better than half my meal . . . Maybe that was a chicken way to handle it, but it felt good . . . And looked better on my hips!!

    We have a woman that regularly attends the North State symphony with her service dog. She sits in the same front seat where that beautifully trained service dog curls up at her feet. I have never heard one bark or yelp or of him. He is so well trained and behaves so beautifully. Those liars/cheaters give a bad rap to those who need the help of a truly trained service dog. THANKS FOR THE TIMLY ARTICLE, DONI!!

  31. Avatar Michelle says:

    I am (an uncertified) dog lover but my dogs stay home. I have rentals too but I circumvent all dog conversations by accepting applications and letting them tell me whatever they want about their dog. I have low rent rentals and they ALL have pitbulls. (I gave up trying to figure that out) If I am not interested in them as a tenant, I just never call them back. (read, no pit bulls) So far that’s not against the law.

  32. Avatar sal says:

    Two years ago I encountered a (un) dynamic duo each riding the electric shopping cart at costco. They were perusing the isles side by side, well until they caught other folks anyway. One had old bowser up in the basket where the food items go. Finally shook them off and continued on. After checking out I was in line to pick up a pizza to go and they rolled in behind me. At this point an employee came up to them and told them “I told you last time do not put the dog in the basket, people put their food in there”. Well about that time their pizza was done, they both stepped off the carts, carried the dog and stormed off on foot mad and said “that guy can put these carts away!”.

  33. Avatar Denise O says:

    I wish they were never in food stores. No problem at the feed store or Home Depot.

    Redding parades would not be complete without one dog fight on a crowded sidewalk. I am stunned at the logic to bring a dog where there are throngs of people, lots with strollers. How is that fun for the dog let alone the rest of us?

  34. Real service dogs are considered medical equipment and a true, working dog is practically invisible when out in public. They do not want to sniff you or “say hi.” They are trained to ignore everything and focus on their person.

    The topic of fake service dogs has been a hot button for me for over a decade.

    Last year I stopped at my favorite cafe on the Trinity River. I had a dog with me and asked the young guy at the counter if dogs were permitted out on the patio. He said no, only service dogs were allowed. Fine with me, the dog was perfectly happy in the car. But then the nice fellow encouraged me to go online to buy, “one of those vests.” He then told me how he’s advised a lot of people to do the same! Poor guy. He meant well but soon he was sorry he wasted his helpful information on the likes of me. 🙂

    It was a long hard battle for service dogs to gain public access… hard work that is now being exploited. I fear that one day disabled service dog owners will be forced to carry proof of their disability – something the ADA seeks to avoid.

  35. Avatar Melissa Roberts says:

    I fully agree with your thoughts on this. My son, Tanner, has cerebral palsy. He has a licensed service dog from Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa. We had to spend 2 full weeks in training down there to get Dolce. CCI is an amazing program. They train their dogs and follow up with certification every 3 years to make sure the dogs are still maintaining the training and behavior a service dog should have. We have taken Dolce into restaurants with our son. No one ever knew she was there, as it should be. We’ve been in Target with Dolce and Tanner when a so called service dog was there that started barking at us. Dolce was as silent as could be, standing right where she should be, by Tanner. Dolce is his service dog, providing companionship, as well as opening doors and retrieving items. We have taken her into various classrooms so Tanner can help the kids see what service dogs do. There are many real service dogs that really do make a difference! Thank you!

  36. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Thank you for a great article Doni. I’ve had dogs all my life, but I’ve never considered taking them into a store. When it’s hot in Redding, the dogs don’t come to town with me because 1) I couldn’t leave them in a hot car and 2) I know they would hate shopping. Running around at the dog park, yes. Shopping, no. This is a problem that has crept up on us in Redding. I had to take evasive action in a store recently when one dog (in a basket on a cart) got into a rumble with another dog walking by…close to my ankles. The signs on business are specific about what animals are allowed in the store. Sales people shouldn’t be asked to enforce that regulation….maybe a manager should take on that responsibility. Again. Thank you for a discussion provoking article.

  37. Avatar DBC says:

    When 72% of all shopping carts have fecal bacterial on them the pooch looks rather clean.

  38. Avatar Curtis says:

    Great article. I work in retail and can’t tell you the number if times people have brought fido into the store. The dog is not a service animal, then it poops or pees in a shelf or display, if the owner of said dog says anything is goes like thesis, “there is a mess in aisle # better get it cleaned up”. I am NOT paid to clean up after your animal. It totally disgusts me to see dogs in carts, or to see a dog in a restaurant on the seat, or licking the owners plate. As stated by others it is our entitled society now that insists on getting their way no matter what. I grew up with dogs, have owned dogs most ofmy adult life at no time were my dogs taken to a store or a restaurant. ..DOGS ARE DOGS NOT PEOPLE AND THEY DO HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS AS PEOPLE.

  39. Thanks for addressing this, Doni. A higher standard of behavior for dogs in public would certainly be a welcome change. Actually, a high standard at home would be a great start. Isn’t that where every public-policy shift happens, in the home? I don’t let my dogs charge, bark incessantly at, or jump on visitors to my home, and I’d sure appreciate it if others didn’t let their dogs do it to me… no matter what size or breed. Teach your dogs some self-control, heel, stay, down, and quiet, and THEN think about MAYBE taking them into public. Help is available if you’re a complete newbie. There’s a billion free YouTube videos. Dozens of local trainers. An ill-mannered dog is a shame and a liability, not a “cute lil rascal”. We’ve got to stop with the “fur-baby” treatment of dogs like they’re just animate, pathetically-almost-human dolls. A well-trained dog is a delight, shining with intelligence, grace, and composure of a sort that is profoundly inhuman yet compatible with us like no other species on earth. I hope the GOOD EXAMPLES we have in Redding become more obvious in contrast to the increasingly obtrusive examples of canine anarchy. I’d like to praise the numerous people I know who spend many hours a week deliberately pursuing a solid relationship and high training goals with their dogs. Truly responsible and active dog owners with actual COMPANIONS, not “accessories” or “dolls” dragged around on a rope. Kudos to you, excellent handlers!

    • Well put, Holly. Feel free to share your wisdom here on about dog training (or maybe it’s people training) any time.

    • Avatar Peeved Handler says:

      Thank heavens! Someone else who understands. Nothing else annoys me more than people who let their little dogs get away with “murder” (jumping, snapping, running loose, barking incessantly, etc.), but would be the first to throw down if my 80lb Labrador was doing the same thing. ESPECIALLY the running loose, with our leash laws here.

      I don’t care if your dog *is* only 5lbs and “loves everybody”. My dog is attached to me with an over-the-shoulder leash, and when your little puntable comes running up to my dog, trying to jump all over him to “be friends”, you put my health and safety at risk.

      I’ve already had two serious falls because of people who didn’t have control of their dogs, when I was with each of my dogs. The first one, the dog got loose from the house, and attacked us unprovoked. It resulted in a back injury, and the dog owner was only charged with having her dog off leash. She received a $360 fine and one year of unsupervised probation. The second one; I was walking the Labrador, and two “service dogs” were with their handler and a relative by the mailboxes. The lighting wasn’t great so I asked if they had leashes, and they both held up the end of a leash, then set it down. There was a stone trash can between us, and just as I went to put my key in the mailbox, the little dog started barking and lunging at my dog (which wasn’t a problem), but then the bigger dog joined in, and I didn’t want to end up trapped in the corner of a three-way dog fight. I grabbed my dog under hid neck to pull him out of the way, but I tripped over my cane, and ended up with my dog on top of me. Fortunately, the two ladies caught their dogs right before they attacked us. I ended up injuring my knee badly, and ultimately had to have it replaced. Unfortunately, I did find out what apartment they lived in, and they ended up moving (I think), because I haven’t seen them in a year.

      I was almost attacked in a Target two years ago by a German Shepherd. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a police report, and I didn’t have the store get identification, so when I was *really* sore the next day from backing into the service counter at high speed (I’m pretty sure my dog was dragging me to safety), I didn’t have anyone to contact for injuries. I opted not to settle with Target, as it wasn’t their fault for having someone lie to them.

  40. Avatar Common Sense says:

    3 Dogs today in Grocery Outlet in Redding. One was itching something pretty good! Apparently, this is something we will either have to just deal with, or….find a new store to shop at!

    Not one had a “Vest” on and I don’t think any of them could be in the running for a “True” Service Dog job!
    SAD the owner there doesn’t seem to care!

    Wonder if their next closeout in the Cosmetic Section will be FLEA Soap?

  41. Avatar Leona Boudin says:

    I live in Clearlake where a woman has a blond golden retriever who is her service dog. The dog’s name is Connie and she did two tours in Iraq as a bomb sniffing dog. She is wonderful, but she is a shedder. She wears a big vest that catches most of it, but yes, she is a real service dog. On the other hand I was at Nordstrom’s picking up a shirt for my husband and there was a family, little girl on the hand with an ice cream, little boy in stroller and labradoodle on a leash. I asked if that was okay and the clerk said their instructions were to not challenge it. Why take the dog shopping for clothes, that is not the dog park. Anyway the dog then lifted it’s leg and let loose on a whole rack of Expensive Hawaiian Shirts, carpet and stand, plus the baby stroller and the kid. He was just a giant puppy who nobody was listening to, cause he was trying to tell them he had to go to the bathroom. I just left, completely disgusted.

  42. Avatar Abalone Tyee says:

    The State of Hawaii is trying to deal with this problem. They recently passed a bill to define “Service Animals.” I hope a “Service Peacock” is not included in the definitions. Peacocks on planes gives it a whole new perspective. I thought birds had wings…