Well meaning law gone awry

Yesterday I was in a shoe store with my family when I bumped into something. I instinctually said “I’m sorry” and then looked to see the person I accidentally bumped. I looked down and saw a dog instead of a person. (I do apologize to my own dog all the time, but was a little surprised to see a dog in a store.)

I’m not sure when people started routinely bringing dogs into stores, but I seem to recall only seeing service dogs with vests or dogs with harnesses to assist blind people coming into stores. My guess is that people have taken a lot of liberties with the Americans with Disability Act and have taken to redefining what is a service dog. The law states that a person in a business, restaurant or other public place may only ask 2 questions to someone bringing in a service dog:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

They cannot ask the person to provide documentation or otherwise prove that the dog is a service dog. It appears that many businesses don’t bother asking because that could open the store up to a lawsuit.

Not only are dogs being brought into stores (Home Depot, Target, Costco, etc.), they are also being brought to farmer’s markets. The California law doesn’t permit dogs within 20 feet of where food is stored; the farmer’s market we’ve been to in Little Italy has an aisle between the sides of the street of less than 20 feet, I’d say. This would prohibit dogs completely from being at the farmer’s market (except for service dogs, of course). However, people bring their dogs to the market and have their dogs come close to the booths where food is being handled. Do you really want dogs going near food that you might purchase? I love dogs, but I really don’t want dogs near my food.

While I do see the rationale for not asking for documentation and embarrassing those that are disabled, there must be a way to better handle this than to effectively let everyone bring dogs into stores. California does make it a misdemeanor to misrepresent a service animal (California Penal Code 365.7), but I suspect it is rarely enforced. Can people be taught to be considerate and keep their pets at home? I know that pets are family, but they don’t have to go everywhere. Doing some searches on this topic seems like I’m not the only one annoyed by this trend.

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