Publix takes on service dog tag abuse
Publix is posting new in-store signage indicating that only service dogs or other animals helping with disabilities are permitted in the store.
The signs read, “For food safety reasons, only service animals that are specifically trained to aid a person with disabilities are permitted within the store. Service animals are not permitted to ride or sit in shopping carts. Thank you for your help!”
The regulations have always been policy, according to the company, and the signs serve as a reminder.
The Florida-based chain becomes the first major retailer to address the controversy over “emotional support” and “service” animals.
The Americans with Disabilities Act allows individuals with disabilities to take service dogs onto airplanes and into restaurants, hotels, stores and other typically pet-restricted areas. Only recently, however, has there been an escalation of people bringing animals, largely dogs, into those places. Many have been met with accusations that they are abusing federal disability laws.
— American Disability Rights, Inc. (@AmDisRights) July 27, 2018
The disagreement typically isn’t with service animals trained to help those with physical disabilities, but with untrained emotional support animals that supposed to help people manage mental illnesses. Fake vests are widely available online along with spotty certifications from therapists to enable people to game the system. On airlines, for instance, support dogs are allowed to travel for free and sit in the cabin.
Publix’s move follows stricter guidelines from some airlines. The chain’s signage was applauded by two groups angered that abuse of the rules is leading to harassment of those who legitimately require support animals in their daily lives.
But there are also reasons why retailers have been lenient in allowing questionable support animals in their stores. Publix’s stricter policy may penalize those who require emotional support dogs, some of which calm people, including ex-military personal with PTSD as well as those who suffer from anxiety, depression and extreme asthma.
It’s also unknown how Publix will enforce the rules. To avoid discrimination, businesses are prevented from requiring certification to let animals in. Only two questions are allowed: “Is that a service dog?” and “What service does your dog provide?”
- Publix: No dogs in grocery carts, including service pets – The Associated Press/Tampa Bay Times
- ‘Real service dogs don’t ride in carts.’ People respond to new warning signs at Publix – Miami Herald
- Publix adds new warnings about service animals – Orlando Sentinel
- It’s Time to End the Scam of Flying Pets – The New York Times
- 5 reasons why American Airlines says it shouldn’t have to allow emotional support animals – The Dallas Morning News
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see more benefits than risks to Publix becoming stricter with its service dog policies? Are there ways for retailers to crack down on the cheats, avoid discrimination against those who require support animals and stay within the law?