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?


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!

8 thoughts on “Do You Mind Seeing Dogs in Grocery Stores?”

  1. Non service dogs have no place in food or clothing stores. Trying to downplay it is sheer arrogance of the owner. Using a stroller, citing its small size or referring to it as an anxious animal is simply prioritizing yourself over others.

    Case closed

  2. I wish stores around here would get with the program of adhering to health regulations and keeping people from bringing in their pets, and too often letting those pets ride around in the grocery cart! We even have people bringing their dogs into restaurants, and letting them get on the table!

    It is seriously disgusting, and wrong for food establishments to place the health of people who are allergic at risk.

  3. It’s definitely a problem. Food safety laws exist for a reason. When people started abusing the ADA in order to subvert the laws meant to protect everyone’s food safety, it opened the door for every entitled dog owner to decide they could make up their own rules and this is not a good thing.

  4. Gross Pets in Stores

    I used to work at a Home Goods (TJ Maxx) store that had both a pet and a food section. I cannot tell you how many times I saw pet dogs – rubbing on food packaging, urinating near the food on the floor, chewing and sniffing packages of human food, not to mention barking, shedding, snarling and pooping. Disgusting.

    If you shop at Home Goods or TJ Maxx, I would check that the food you are buying hasn’t been pissed on by someone’s pet dog and left on the shelf. After working there, I will never shop in their food section again because they encourage pet owners to bring their animals even though technically only service animals should be allowed.

  5. Suzanna Wellington

    Awhile back when I was in King Soopers of Colorado. I witnessed a unclean dog lift it’s leg on some hamburger buns on a lower shelf. The two folks (owners) were clearly not disabled other than probably not being the brightest bulbs on the tree. I spoke to the manager and he said if I didn’t like it, I could find somewhere else to shop. He didn’t have an issue with the urine soaked buns. I don’t shop there any more – So Gross. Now I see these same types of dogs (non-service dogs) in every grocery store in Colorado. I called the Health dept. and the FDA to file a complaint. It has been weeks and they won’t return any of my calls. I’m running out of places to shop for food. Dogs shed and can carry fleas, worms, other parasites and many, many diseases. There are laws to prevent this kind of activity in places that sell food, but the store managers just don’t care as long as they get their paycheck. I’m waiting to hear that a non-service dog has attacked a customer or a child if it hasn’t happened already. This is just part of the total breakdown of civil society. It’s only going to get worse if folks are not required to follow the laws. I have a beautiful little pug, but I would never take her to the grocery store as it is just common sense not to do so.

  6. I do mind dogs in grocery stores! I was in my Stater Bros. store today when I saw a so called service dog, a black lab, sniff and then lick a clamshell box of fresh cookies in the bakery department. How disgusting. I told the deli girl about it and it made her mad that
    dogs are allowed in stores. She sees it constantly and there is nothing she can do about it.
    I spoke with the manager and he also said by law there nothing he can do.

    The girl with the dog did not even care that her companion was licking the food. I will not buy store made cookies again and I hope this dog law changes. A call to the health department is next.

  7. If its a small dog being held or in a stroller, what’s the problem? My dog is cleaner than a lot of people I pass in the grocery store especially the smells !

  8. I have a mini poodle with separation anxiety so I try to take him everywhere with me BUT he’s in a doggy stroller fully enclosed, so I don’t see any problem taking him in a grocery store!

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