PORTLAND, Ore. – They bite, they bark, they drool and urinate where you buy your food.
They are the dogs that people bring into stores: the Chihuahua in the shopping cart; the Doberman sitting by the meat counter.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture received more than 50 complaints in 2013 about non-service dogs in stores.
But Fred Meyer Spokeswoman Melinda Merrill said the problem is much bigger than that.
“Every single day at every store we have a complaint about an animal in the store,” Merrill said. “The issue of non-service animals in our stores is actually a very frustrating one for us.”
Stores like Fred Meyer can ban non-service dogs from their aisles, and many do, but enforcing that ban can be difficult.
The Americans with Disabilities Act only allows store owners to ask two questions of people who bring dogs into stores: ‘Is it a service animal?’ and ‘What task is the animal trained to do?’
It’s easy to lie when asked those questions, because store owners are not allowed to ask for proof.
They can, however, ask the dog and owner to leave if the dog becomes disruptive.
“Under the law we are forbidden to do anything else until that animal does something unsafe or unsanitary,” Merrill said.
Time for a Change?
Mallory Monfredi and Katie Durden are blind and both use guide dogs to get around.
Both women said running into an untrained dog on their shopping trip can be disastrous.
“People get on with dogs that they say oh, it’s my service dog, but [those dogs] have little to no training,” Durden said. “They’re barking and growling and snarling at our dogs. When we’re in a grocery store our dogs are trying to dodge us around people who aren’t paying attention with shopping carts and groceries.”
Both say they would welcome a change to the ADA requiring some proof of service dog training for animals taken into stores.
“I think that you should at least have something on your dog explaining what it does,” Monfredi said. “My harness says guide dog, you know what I’m saying? So I think that’s a legitimate requirement.”
“Maybe not anything that discloses the disability for people who feel uncomfortable with that,” Durden added, “but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have an ID card with you or something.”