Do You Mind Seeing Dogs in Grocery Stores?

Frankly, we're not so sure we're ready for the shedding dog in the meat aisle or the Poodle lifting a leg over in produce. What about you?

Maria Goodavage  |  Jul 25th 2012

The other day at my neighborhood Safeway, a Bichon Frise wheeled by in the upper part of a shopping cart. A few minutes later, a Collie mix shed his way past me in the meat department, nose pointed upward and nostrils quivering at the enticingly raw scents, fur floating away as he breezed by. A friend told me that two weeks earlier, she’d seen a Toy Poodle lift a leg in the produce section of a supermarket in her San Francisco neighborhood.

It’s just part of a trend I’ve witnessed lately of dogs in stores. I’m fine with mutts at Macy’s, Samoyeds at Staples, and Rovers at restaurants with outdoor seating. In fact, in my book, The Dog Lover’s Companion to California, I applaud dog-friendly businesses and the way they help maintain the human-animal bond. Why leave a dog at home when you can spend your little bit of free time together running errands?

But with the major exception of guide and other service dogs, I’m not quite so big on dogs in grocery stores. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the flying fur, maybe it’s the leg-lift potential, or maybe it’s the potential for canine flotsam that can end up in shopping carts after dogs like the Bichon take a ride in them.

Sure, I mix dogs and groceries in my own house. Jake is right there to greet me with groceries, shoving his nose in the bag to inspect the goods. That doesn’t bother me. But seeing that Bichon’s very furry butt firmly planted where I normally put my produce — sans plastic, to help minimize waste — was a bit unsettling. I know that babies and their diapered and clothed hineys sit in the same place, so it shouldn’t really bother me, I realize. Leaks happen, after all.

My friend who witnessed the peeing Poodle is a rabid dog lover whose life revolves around her little rescue dogs. But even her stomach lurched a bit when she saw the leg-lift near the display of fresh corn. The dog’s owner told the floor worker, laughing, that it happened probably because corn is from the grass family. The worker didn’t look amused as he mopped it up, and my friend could still smell the unmistakable eau de pee when she passed by again later.

There’s a chance that some of the dogs I’ve seen at supermarkets around San Francisco in the last year or so are service dogs. After all, such dogs don’t have to wear any identifying tags or harnesses. But I hear through Animal Control people and business owners that some non-service-dog owners who frequent grocery stores know the law pretty well, and are taking advantage of this. They know they legally can’t be asked much at all about their dogs. It’s an important protection for people with disabilities, who shouldn’t have to explain their disabilities or why they need a dog.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, some Safeway stores are now “posting notices saying that dog owners who fraudulently claim their dog is a service animal are subject to California Penal Code 365.7, which could result in imprisonment in the county jail and/or a fine that could run to $1,000.”

Actually, I’m pretty sure that most people bringing their dogs with them think it’s just a fun thing to do, and aren’t trying to get away with saying their pet is a service animal. After all, they love their dogs to be everywhere they are, so why wouldn’t everyone else welcome them? And if no one says boo to them, they’ll be more likely to shop at more stores with their dogs. Seeing the dogs will encourage others to think it’s okay. And so the trend, at least in San Francisco, grows.

I wonder whether I’m the only one who has noted this trend of late, and I especially wonder why, although I’m a confirmed dog lover, this supermarket business doesn’t sit well with me. Am I alone in this? Would you bring your dog grocery shopping if you could? (Or do you already bring yours?) Do you enjoy seeing people with non-service dogs in grocery stores?

Maybe you could help me change my mind. After all, dogs at al fresco restaurants are perfectly fine with me. Given that fact, my opinion on non-service dogs in grocery stores doesn’t even make sense to me. Let’s talk!