I love dogs and I have two that go almost everywhere with me. But I just came home from Walmart and City Market and there were three dogs in each grocery store, either carried, riding in the cart or on a leash! None of the dogs had vests or collars indicating they were service dogs. What gives? I thought this was against health department regulations. Sign me, 40-year Durangoan
There’s an old saying: “Every dog has its day.”
Today isn’t one of them.
Unless your pooch is a specially trained service animal, you cannot take it inside any grocery store.
Yes, that means you.
And no, your dog is not a “service animal” because it makes you happy.
There. Action Line just became the second-most reviled person in Durango.
First place, of course, goes to the woman who tripped over a dog dish, successfully sued Maria’s Bookstore for a quarter mil and is now zealously trying to ban water bowls from Main Avenue sidewalks.
But if you think Action Line hates hounds, you are barking up the wrong tree. Just ask Mrs. Action Line.
She gets frustrated during walks along the river trail because Action Line will stop to greet every passing dog and give them tummy scratches.
It’s not much of a walk when you stop every three minutes.
But that’s the river trail, not the produce aisle.
They are totally different venues in the eyes of San Juan Basin Public Health, the unsung agency that keeps our food safe.
According to state regulations, “live animals may not be allowed on the premises of a food establishment.”
There are some exceptions, including “service animals,” aquariums and lobster tanks, police dogs and caged animals “in a variety store that sells pets or a tourist park that displays animals.”
In addition, “live fish bait shall be stored to prevent contamination of food.”
Thank goodness gas stations don’t put worms next to the microwavable burritos! (It might be a different story in certain parts of the county, however.)
But let’s get back to the notion of “service animal.” Laws are very strict as to what constitutes one.
By the way, a red vest with a “service animal” patch is pretty much meaningless.
For around 30 bucks, anyone and their dog can get an official-looking vest from Amazon. The sellers will even include some official-looking scam ID cards.
So you there at the cheese counter with the vested and well-groomed Yorkie in your shopping cart. You are so busted.
So was the guy Mrs. Action Line saw getting booted from City Market the other day.
He was going on and on about his “well-trained service dog.” The manager wasn’t buying it.
Meanwhile, the mutt was gnawing on the bag of doughnuts the guy was holding, at which point the guy started yelling at the dog.
Someone needs training. And it’s not the dog. Or the manager.
State and federal laws are crystal clear in differentiating pets from “service animals.”
Service animals must be “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”
Furthermore, animals that provide “emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition,” according to state statute.
Similar wording is echoed in the Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has a handy overview. Visit http://tinyurl.com/serv-dog.
The feds limit service animals to dogs. Colorado, however, includes “miniature horses.” Seriously.
Thankfully, there have been no reports of small horses inside Walmart or City Market. Yet.
One thing’s for sure. If Mrs. Action Line were to encounter a horse in the grocery store, she’d have a cow.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if fake service dogs get your goat.