Chasing Fido Out of the Food Aisle

Discussion
Sep 23, 2009
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

In dog-loving Portland, Oregon, it’s not surprising to see a pooch shopping alongside its owner in food retailers even though it is illegal. In response, the Oregon Department of Agriculture is launching a public awareness campaign to remind shoppers and retailers of the law.

According to The New York Times, the food safety division of the Oregon Agriculture Department has received more than 600 complaints about animals in food stores with a heavy portion coming from the upscale Pearl District of Portland. Whole Foods in the area has had some complaints while a nearby Safeway had even more, the Times reports. Complaints usually arrive after a customer witnesses a canine licking meat packages, sniffing food or urinating in the aisles.

“There’s a trend, a growing trend, for people to treat their pets like a member of the family but they forget we still have to draw the line between our furry children and those without paws,” Vance Bybee, the head of the ODA, told The Oregonian. “Interestingly enough, we get more complaints in Bend and in the Pearl District of Portland where people are more affluent and have the opportunity to pamper their pets and feel this pet is a part of my family so I am entitled to do with it what I like.”

As a result, Oregon in September began distributing dog-shaped posters and pamphlets to about 4,500 retail food stores bearing the message that only animals trained to help the disabled are allowed in stores.

Apparently, many stores decide either to ignore or enforce the law sporadically. The Times’ article noted that one Safeway employee had walked up to a dog-in-tow shopper to let her know that dogs weren’t allowed in the store.

While wanting to please its dog-loving customers is one reason to float the law, another is that stores are leery of asking customers personal questions about service dogs in fear of lawsuits. The new law states, “Animals that provide support or companionship are not regarded as service animals.” But limits on questions that can be asked around disabilities presents challenges.

“It’s this weird gray area,” Caitlin Lomen, a deli worker at Whole Foods in the Pearl District, told the Times. “Like when you see little Foo Foo in someone’s purse, you know that’s not a service animal.”

Co-worker Carl Anderson added: “Some people are kind of grossed out by it, but it’s a comfort thing for a lot of people, to have their dog with them. Who am I to judge someone else’s needs?”

Mr. Anderson added, “Unless they’re jumping up and eating out of the salad bar, we try to roll with it the best we can.”

Discussion questions: Should food retailers allow dogs in stores if it’s a commonly accepted practice in the region? On the other hand, what do you think about allowing dogs in non-food retailers?
[Author’s commentary] Although it seems to draw the line at full-line supermarkets, my hometown of New York City is also very dog-friendly. Most delis and few mini-markets let them in. Many bars face fines for allowing the practice. Meanwhile, scores of non-food retailers court dogs as much as their two-legged friends. Water bowls can be found inside or outside many doors. A few (J. Crew, Patagonia, Kiehls, etc.) have dog treats ready as furry traffic drivers. Indeed, it’s always a shock to head to the suburbs to find such dog-unfriendly shopping options!

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16 Comments on "Chasing Fido Out of the Food Aisle"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Sorry, fellow dog-lovers but I agree that laws keeping dogs and other animals out of food stores and restaurants are there for a reason: public health. (And I agree that service dogs ought to be the exception to the rule.) The trend toward “humanizing” dogs and treating them like members of the family is real, and it’s also a business driver for retailers from big-box pet supply stores to boutiques. But public health concerns ought to trump “customer-friendly” policies for food resellers — at least as long as science dictates that these laws should be on the books.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say, as vehemently as I can, that with the exception of service dogs, animals should absolutely not ever be allowed into stores of any kind. In addition to the extremely valid and important public health issues, believe it or not, some of us do not enjoy their proximity. Under any circumstances. So what about stores being customer-friendly to us and respecting our privacy?

David Zahn
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

I echo Richard’s comments. As long as the law exists based on science’s best insights into public health protection, this is a clear violation and should not be allowed, permitted, or ignored.

As for those retailers that are NON-food, if they choose to cater to the customer base by being dog-friendly, that is a business decision and one that can be debated on the merits of traffic, loyalty or any other measure–but it is outside the food-retailer universe.

Rick Myers
Guest
Rick Myers
11 years 7 months ago

I’m a dog lover too, but I don’t want dog hair on my food.

Catherine Hamilton
Guest
Catherine Hamilton
11 years 7 months ago

Absolutely unequivocally NO WAY should animals be allowed in any retail establishment period! (Except dogs for the disabled.)

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 7 months ago
Color me baffled by the peevishness of Americans when it comes to pets in retail establishments. Dogs go everywhere in Europe and are more well-behaved as a result. I’ve met several people who have had their dogs certified as service dogs (on the grounds that they provide emotional stability) in order to circumvent these ridiculous prohibitions. My favorite watering hole, The Other Room, has locations in Venice, California and New York’s East Village. The artistic crowd, great music and variety of brews aren’t unique to either area; the dog-welcoming policy is and that’s why the place is filled night after night (and why I never miss a trip there when in LA or NY). The dogs get conversations going like nothing else can and as a result, I’ve met some of the most interesting people and have made business contacts that I know would not have happened otherwise (because people can be closed-in and narrow-minded. Back to the original point). This is not about making dogs “children,” it’s about being rational and focusing on the… Read more »
John Roach
Guest
John Roach
11 years 7 months ago

I’m a huge animal fan. I love dogs and I own a horse. That being said–no dogs (except service animals) should be allowed in any stores. I don’t want dog hair/slobber on my new jeans any more than I want dog hair/slobber on my food–packaged or not.

BUT–maybe there is a niche here. I would welcome the opportunity to bring my dog (if I had one) to a store as long as I know everyone in the store was like-minded and I would not be causing someone stress by having my dog present. I would drive out of the way to shop there. I’d also pay a little more to shop there and I couldn’t afford it I would shop somewhere else without my dog.

Sam Horton
Guest
Sam Horton
11 years 7 months ago

Let’s not forget that we are all animals, and we shed hair (that’s why some have to wear hair nets) and we occasionally drool. Those shields over the salad bar are sneeze shields. Not to prevent pets from sneezing, but people. We sneeze and cough in our hands. We go to the restroom and don’t wash after. If you are ever driving down the road and being observant you’ll see a finger or two up a nose. AND THAT’S OK?

I don’t see anything wrong with it. If you have a clean, well-behaved pet, there shouldn’t be a problem. Although we may have to tolerate announcements like “DOGFIGHT aisle 6; Jimmy get the hose!”

Good lively conversation.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 7 months ago

I don’t believe that dogs should be allowed in the stores. No matter how close their owners are with their pets, and no matter how clean their pets might be, the fact is the dogs are animals, and animals do not belong roaming the store aisles.

At the risk of alienating every parent in the world, I was going to add that stores have enough problems controlling the kids. Which reminds me of a quick story from when I worked for a major Chicago supermarket retailer. One day, a family was in the store, and both parents were physically challenged, and their young children were helping them shop. All of a sudden, a corrugated display in the frozen food aisle was on fire, and we literally heard on the intercom, “Fire in Aisle 12.” Seems one of the kids had taken a disposable lighter, and wanted to see how it worked.

Retailers have enough challenges. Adding pets to the mix will simply make their job that much more difficult.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Care should be taken on this issue. While there is no question that retailers do and must allow service animals, care on total exclusion will become and issue. I don’t support it, however, just as there are other issues that have sprung up out of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a further definition without the same structure is forthcoming which is ‘support’ or ‘companion’ animals. In prohibition of animals or enforcing ‘no pets’ issues, this will be the next horizon of legal question in this area.

The definition is broad on this topic and leaves a huge gap for interpretation. Just as with many other litigious concerns for retailers, this will become another one to add to that list. It’s already an issue in housing and workplace discrimination litigation in rising numbers.

Justin Time
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

I will never, never forget the image of a dog owner and his dog, on a very early bright summer morning in Virgina years ago.

They were waiting for the PetSmart store to open, the terrier’s tail wagging excitedly as they waited by their car.

Seems that neither the dog or its owner realized that the store was closed and earlier that week, had moved across the street to a new location. The old store was on a hill, so neither one could see that the store had moved to a new location below.

I pointed to the sign on the door, as I jogged by, and they were happy that indeed their PetSmart store was still open, just in a new location.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 7 months ago
Historically, average Joes in this country have voluntarily been quite law abiding as a way to preserve civil society. However, over time some lawmaking bodies (all the way from the federal government to condo association boards) have seemed to veer off into crazy directions and have created “little” laws that to some may seem unfair, petty, ill-considered and unnecessarily invasive–and some citizens just therefore choose to ignore them. As a result, laws in general, including “good” ones have perhaps lost some of their power and effectiveness. Is the referenced “dog in stores” law a good law or a bad law? Well, the issue is interesting and maybe not totally black and white as evidenced by the thoughts already posted on this thread. Yes, there is apparently a law on the books, and apparently a lot of people are violating it, and apparently in return they seem to have been ignored by the store management. So, more and more dog owners do it, too. Pets, especially dogs, have always been “family.” But with today’s busy young… Read more »
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
11 years 7 months ago

I am in the camp that dogs don’t belong in food stores. But, as a society I think we’ve gone overboard trying to protect ourselves from every conceivable germ. That’s for another day.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

As a guy who has three Rottweilers and three cats, I can see Carol S.’s points about the value of adding conversation to a gathering place. However, I believe the opportunity lies with the individual retailer, regardless of what they sell. PetCo (and other pet stores) encourages people to bring their pets. One expects that, in that store.

If a food retailer wants to discourage or restrict customers bringing pets in their stores (excluding service dogs), signs should be posted to that effect. It could be possible, however, to encourage pet-friendliness within a food store, if that is desired, with innovative themes and signing in the store.

I had to laugh when I sat next to a lady on a plane and she had a relatively large dog with her. She said she just bought the “Service Dog” vest for her pet and that was all it took to get the dog on the plane. Ha!

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

This is about pushing a law, which is unreasonable in today’s environment. So long as pets are managed (and most are) this is no different than children, or unruly adults. Everyone should be behaving regardless of their breed, age or animal species in a store. Well-managed animals should not be an issue. Like most things, a few bad apples (dogs) spoil it for everyone.

Sandy Miller
Guest
Sandy Miller
11 years 7 months ago

I think considering the current economy, now is the time for retailers to find as many ways as possible to reasonably accommodate the lifestyles of their customers, not fight against them. There are many ways to address this issue that could drive revenue for a retailer. For instance, imagine how much more business a store could see if they were the only one that had a doggy care center at the front of the store. The shopper doesn’t have to leave their beloved pet in the car and the retailer doesn’t have to worry about turning away a customer.

It’s been proven by many retailers that catering to local and regional tastes and/or lifestyles is profitable. In fact, it’s part of Macy’s entire new marketing strategy.

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