It’s the supermarket showdown that we’ve all been waiting for: grocery shoppers versus pets in shopping carts.
And this one could get ugly. I mean fur — and maybe feathers — flying everywhere.
Beloved grocery store giant Publix Supermarkets Inc. appeared to set up this battle royale when over the weekend various news outlets reported the venerable chain was finally laying down the law with regard to service animals in their stores.
Publix has posted new warnings signs at store entrances and exits telling customers which service animals are permitted in the store and where they can be.
“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 sit or ride in shopping carts.
“Thank you for your help!”
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That’s right, no more BOGO help from Fido… OK, not exactly.
But let’s be honest, too many folks have been taking this “service” or “emotional support” animal thing too far selfishly infringing on other folks’ space. They abuse federal laws and company policies that seek to help others living with disabilities. And that’s just wrong.
Publix obviously does allow legitimate service animals in their stores. It would be foolish, for example, to ban seeing-eye dogs or a canine providing support to a U.S. military veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
And that’s not at all what the popular Lakeland-based chain seems to be aiming for with the new signs.
In fact, company spokesman Dwaine Stevens told the Orlando Sentinel on Friday that Publix has always had the policy about service animals, but the signs are for awareness. But the signage — which includes an encircled paw print with a slash through it next to type set off in bold that gives a no-no to let your dog ride in a shopping cart — is by design.
The Americans with Disabilities Act allows individuals with disabilities to take service dogs into many public businesses, including restaurants, hotels and stores. It also stops businesses from requiring certification to let animals in.
But a growing number of customers have tormented eateries, airlines, condo boards, et.al by calling all sorts of “pets” — like peacocks, squirrels, pigs and hamsters — “service” or “emotional support” animals. As a result, several states — including Florida — have moved to crack down on people potentially abusing federal disability laws to take their pets into businesses.
Earlier this year Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines tightened restrictions on emotional support animals, banning animals such as goats, salamanders and hedgehogs.
American Disability Rights seemed to champion Publix’s new signs in a tweet it posted that read “Four on the floor! and had among its hashtags, #stopdisabilityfraud.
Another group on Twitter, StairStepDogTraining, also praised the initiative in a tweet directed at Fox 35’s reporting on the Publix signs in Lake Mary, Fla, stores.
“Real service dogs don’t ride in carts,” the tweet read. “They cannot do their job if they are confined in a basket. Emotional support animals are NOT service dogs. People need to quit being frauds with their dogs.”
Still, this isn’t likely to end here as folks tend to really be attached to their pets, no matter the critter’s species. That means, we can expect that some shoppers will push the envelope, despite the new signs warning about an old store policy.
After all, pet owners can still purchase a “service animal” vest online. What’s to stop a customer from doing that and wrapping their little Teacup Yorkie in a pink vest and cradling it in her arms while strolling up and down the store aisles.
There is still a question of whether a Publix store manager can ask the owner whether the dog is a legit service animal. That’s apparently still forbidden under federal law…. so what then?
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