Christie: Publix fires warning shot in fight over fake service animals… and it’s about time

Publix has posted new signs at the entrance and exits to stores telling customers which service animals are permitted in the store and where they can be. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

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.

Socks, left, greets trained service dog Charlie Brown, right, during his “Red, Rover, Red Rover, A Hero Comes Over” reception at the Eastpointe clubhouse in Palm Beach Gardens. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

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?

Take our poll, and tell us what you think:

Christie: Florida ban on greyhound racing could finally be going to the dogs

Florida voters look ready to ban greyhound racing by a supermajority vote, according to a new survey that shows the issue fares better at the polls if people identify the proposal with animal welfare instead of gambling. (Photo by David Spencer/The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE: The Florida Constitution Revision Commission on Tuesday night gave preliminary approval to Proposal 67, which would phase out commercial greyhound racing in the state by 2020. The proposal will now go to the Style and Drafting Committee before returning to the full CRC for a final vote. If approved, it will appear on the November ballot.

Would Florida voters ban greyhound racing if a proposed constitutional amendment appeared on the November ballot?

According to a new survey released by animal rights group GREY2K USA, the answer is a solid “maybe” … that is, if the question focuses on animal welfare instead of anti-gambling.

RELATED: Poll: Florida voters favor Greyhound racing ban

The poll, which was shared and reported on by POLITICO Florida on Tuesday, showed a sampling of likely voters supported the measure, 65–27 percent. But POLITICO also reported that overall opposition remained flat. Support appeared to increase to about 70 percent after respondents were asked three questions in support and three questions in opposition to the proposed amendment.

The amendment, along with many others, is under consideration this week by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to decide which proposals will go before voters this fall.

Of course, supporters of ending Florida’s controversial tradition of tying gambling (pari-mutuel wagering) to greyhound racing are heartened by the poll results. At the same, opponents — such as our own Palm Beach Kennel Club — are somewhat dismissive.

The two sides have been warring over the issue for years, as wagering on greyhound racing has been declining. But supporters of a ban have been out-maneuvered largely by the fact that 12 tracks still operating in the state are concerned about being shut out of other, more profitable forms of gambling — like card games and slots — if they lose the dogs.

RELATED: Editorial: Require injury reports for racing greyhounds

Efforts at “decoupling” the two issues, championed by lawmakers from Okaloosa to Palm Beach counties over the years have died during the legislative session as Florida struggles with its “gambling-versus-family” image.

But animal rights groups may have finally found a way to tip the scales in their favor. Everyday folks really do care passionately about dogs.

“Floridians are deeply concerned about the humane issues including confinement, greyhound deaths and injuries,” said Carey M. Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA, told POLITICO Florida. “By contrast, roughly two-thirds of Florida voters are not moved at all by opposition arguments, including job claims. We gain support when it’s clear this is an animal welfare issue.”

Although commercial greyhound racing is banned in 40 states, Florida has been a particularly tough nut to crack with a majority of the nation’s 18 operational tracks located in the Sunshine State.

If the poll numbers hold up, the amendment would easily clear the 60 percent voter-approval threshold to become law in Florida.

Patrons at the Paddock Dining Room at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. (Photo by David Spencer/The Palm Beach Post)

That’s not likely to happen without a fight as breeders and kennel operators like Palm Beach Kennel Club, who insist that they take good care of their animals, call the proposed amendment a job-killer and “a backdoor way of expanding gambling” in the state.

The CRC, to avoid voters getting “ballot fatigue” from considering too many amendments, is also looking at combining disparate proposals on the ballot. This could be a good or bad thing depending on what the greyhound racing ban is coupled with, i.e. oil drilling, school board term limits or nursing homes.

Regardless, it’s looking as though voters will get a chance to vote on it. Take our poll here and tell us how you would vote:

Letter: Get some perspective on real dog lovers

 

dogHere’s a reply to “Dogs are nuisance in many public spaces,” May 29: Sure they are, but with all the animal mistreatment and abuse, maybe we can understand a little of the problem.

Some people have only a dog or cat as their companion, and they really love these animals. Instead of writing a letter, may I suggest you read “So God Made a Dog.” It’s not really religious, just explains how we dog lovers feel. It might make you smile.

I do agree that you also have rights as a non-pet owner, and those rights should be respected by pet owners. People should control their animals and pick up after them, and not bring them into places where they don’t belong.

PATRICIA GUSTAINUS, BOCA RATON

>>READ MORE: Readers React: Do dogs have a place in our restaurants and stores?

Pro-Con: Should the Cincinnati Zoo have killed Harambe the gorilla?

Via Cincinnati Zoo
Harambe (via Cincinnati Zoo)

PRO: Howard Goodman, Editorial Writer

No one could have wanted to keep that Silverback gorilla alive more than the zookeepers. No one could have known the gorilla better. No one would have had a better ability to communicate with him.

If the people closest to Harambe judged that he had to be shot because the little boy’s life was in danger, then you have to think that their reasons were extremely compelling.

Yes, we have seen gorillas acting kindly and protective to human children in other zoos at other times. And maybe Harambe, too, intended nothing but loving kindness toward that 4-year-old.

But a 450-pound gorilla is many times stronger than a human, and when you see the video of him dragging the tiny boy through the water, the speed and violence of it is shocking. It looks like the kid can be snapped in two in an instant. You hear onlookers say: “Oh, my god!”

 

As the zoo’s director, Thane Maynard, said Monday: “It was a life-threatening situation and the silverback gorilla is a very dangerous animal.”

“We stand by our decision and we’d make the same call today.”

It is a terrible thing that a beautiful animal is dead. But animal rights activists are off base in criticizing the zoo for their handling of this wrenching situation. When a human life is in danger, it is the human life that must be saved.

 

Via Cincinnati Zoo
Harambe (via Cincinnati Zoo)

CON: Kristyn Wellesley, Digital Editor

CNN’s Laura Coates doesn’t understand Cincinnati’s reaction to Harambe’s death on Saturday. I will try to explain it.

Cincinnatians — and being born and raised there, I am proudly in that group — have a storied history with our gorillas, and it’s important to understand that to really understand the reaction to Harambe’s death.

It began with Penelope, a western lowland gorilla like Harambe, who came to the Cincinnati Zoo in 1957. Born in Africa, Penelope was a gift to a group of Cincinnatians who had travelled to Africa to give famed humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer a herd of Nubian goats so he could help his patients who were dying of calcium deficiency. Schweitzer had adopted the then-3-year-old Penelope when she was orphaned and gave her to the group in gratitude for their help.

In Cincinnati, Penelope was introduced to King Tut, a 475-pound silverback gorilla who had also been born in Africa and was enamored with her, faithful to her his entire life. The pair had four children together and that family became the foundation for opening the $4 million Gorilla World at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1978, so our families could share with their family.

When King Tut died in 1987 from complications with dental surgery, the entire community mourned and were outraged when his body was sent to a Los Angeles museum for display. Instead, there is a bronze plaque in memory of this gorilla patriarch in Gorilla World. Penelope passed two years later in 1989. Their daughter Samantha is 46 and still lives in Gorilla World.

Cincinnatians hold a very special place in their hearts for these gorillas.

So for Zoo officials to have to kill one is especially devastating to the community.

Thane Maynard, the Zoo’s Director, said tranquilizing Harambe, as the Palm Beach Zoo did recently when one of their male Malayan tigers attacked zookeeper Stacey Konwiser, would have taken too long. But were there no other alternatives?

The Cincinnati Zoo is known for its enrichment programs with the gorillas. There is a relationship between the gorillas and their trainers, and these are very intelligent creatures. Was Harambe given the opportunity to turn the child over to rescuers before he was killed? Did the rescuers make the call too quickly?

Looking at the video, Harambe seemed afraid of the screaming crowd — who were understandably screaming — and dragged the child away from the noise. When the other two gorillas followed the trainer’s command to return to the habitat, Harambe went into the moat to get the child. Was he protecting it? Did he see it as a threat? We can never know those answers.

This is a child whose life could have been in danger, there is no question. How the child was able to access the enclosure or why he wasn’t being supervised closer by his parents are questions that need to be answered, but even those aren’t necessarily points of blame. No zoo can prevent every scenario that might occur. Every parent has turned away distracted for that split second.

But should Harambe have had to die for others’ mistakes? No.

It isn’t that Cincinnatians, or even the animal rights’ groups who are protesting, aren’t as concerned with human life as an animal’s life, as Coates’ suggests — far from it. It’s that we feel deeply for these animals and want to know that there really was no other alternative that could have preserved and protected both lives.

Zoos need to find ways to change their protocols to better protect their animals so no other animal falls victim to the same fate as Harambe.

Readers React: Do dogs have a place in our restaurants and stores?

dogs-1160399_960_720Over the holiday weekend, I strolled into a moderate to high-end women’s clothing store wondering if there were any Memorial Day deals to be had in this store I could normally never afford. Browsing through the racks, there was a woman ahead of me pushing a large covered baby carriage decorated with pink flowers, with cubby space to hold her Starbucks coffee (who drinks coffee when it was that hot outside?!) and under storage for her purse and bags filled with shopping treasures.

The baby was whimpering a little. Was it about to cry, let out a shrill scream that would cause other shoppers to recoil just a little? Maybe it was playing with a toy that was causing it to “ooh” and “ahh.” As I made my way passed the woman and her baby in the expensive carriage, I realized it wasn’t a baby at all.

It was a Cocker Spaniel. A Cocker Spaniel wearing a flower collar and a red, white and blue ribbon on her head. A Cocker Spaniel was what I heard whimpering.

I shouldn’t have seen a baby carriage and assumed there was a baby inside. My bad.

I stopped at Publix recently and as I was searching the aisles, a woman passed me with a beautiful white Maltese sitting in the front part of her cart.

A Maltese in the meat section of Publix.

It was the clearly the Dog Days of Summer.

Still not the weirdest thing I’ve seen since moving to Florida, where bringing your dog with you everywhere seems perfectly normal. I was in a local mall recently where a couple was shopping with their capuchin service monkey (the kind like Marcel on ‘Friends’ or the ‘Outbreak’ monkey, which might have actually been the same monkey). I’ve never encountered a service monkey before so I stopped to talk with the couple to learn about the work the monkey does. They explained they were socially training the monkey and she would eventually go to help someone with limited mobility with every day tasks like drinking water, turning on lights, picking up objects, etc.F9EE86CF-DE99-407E-B0E9-8FC7082840AC75521984-6905-42A7-A1C4-8F2A69DEAD80

But back to the dogs.

Palm Beach Post reader Jack Bennett of Boynton Beach said he’s had enough with people bringing their dogs in public.

“It seems that you can’t go anywhere without having to be confronted with somebody’s ‘baby,’ i.e., their dog. I can’t tell you how many times I go to restaurants and bars where I have to put up with some dog sniffing me, licking me, begging or just plain invading my space,” Bennett wrote.

The social media response was strongly divided.

But it was Bill Brown Meyers who probably had the right assessment of the situation:

So what do you think? Do you take Fido with you everywhere, or leave him at home? Take the poll and join the conversation in the comments below or here on Facebook:

Letter: Why do the rest of us have to deal with your dog?

Via Dogster
Via Dogster

When did the dog become our new king? It seems that you can’t go anywhere without having to be confronted with somebody’s “baby,” i.e., their dog. I can’t tell you how many times I go to restaurants and bars where I have to put up with some dog sniffing me, licking me, begging or just plain invading my space.

And amazingly, most owners don’t see that Fido is being a nuisance. They just smile and beam at how their dog is just so friendly. But just because you think your animal is some kind of wonder pet doesn’t mean it’s true. Most dogs are just plain, well, stupid. They don’t care about you; they just want to be a dog.

And I’m not talking about legitimate service dogs. They really do earn their pay. But even that’s becoming a joke. How many times have you seen somebody with a “service dog” that is clearly only there as a prop and not for any real service? It’s not just restaurants, either. Now it’s grocery stores, the mall, the green market, etc.

No place is “sacred” anymore.

Whenever I see places that allow dogs, I steer clear. I don’t go out to be annoyed, and there are still places where you can dine and not be mauled by “man’s best friend.” But who knows how long that will last? And now, the dog lovers are after the beaches. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they go to the dogs, too.

Please save us from the dogs, but mostly, save us from their owners. If your dog is so important to you, great. Stay home and chase cars together.

JACK BENNETT, BOYNTON BEACH

Letters Debate: Allow dogs on Delray Beach?

dog-787067_960_720A little bit of Delray Beach died on May 10, when city commissioners voted 3-2 against the Friends of Delray Dog Beach’s request for a dog-beach trial. It would have allowed residents to bring their dogs to a limited section of beach a few days a week for a few hours. Just as other South Florida communities have allowed for years.

Hewing to pressure from the powerful Beach Property Owners Association, the commissioners denied the recommendation that their own city staff made in January.

It’s ironic, since the condo dwellers of the BPOA in attendance complained that too many of their members were gone for the summer and couldn’t be at the meeting. Really? Snowbirds who are gone seven or more months of the year — and would be the least likely to be affected by the trial — prevailed over the full-time resident, dog-owning public.

HARVEY STARIN, DELRAY BEACH

 

 

“We’re lucky to be alive” — that’s what Brian Ganey said after a police officer was forced to shoot a dog after trying pepper spray and a stun gun to protect Ganey and himself at a Starbucks on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach in 2007.

Dogs, unlike infants, who are not always obedient, either, in certain situations do attack human beings and have the ability to inflict serious injury.

Atlantic Dunes Park, the proposed site for a dog beach, is packed with sunbathers, and its two blocks of public parking would act like a magnet — attracting hundreds of dog owners from surrounding areas. It also would require dawn-to-dusk, seven-day police and code-enforcement staffing, even to attempt to safely provide a dog beach.

Dog use, for many other reasons, too, is not an appropriate use for Delray Beach’s award-winning, human-populated beaches.

JIM SMITH, DELRAY BEACH

Letter: Dog walker shouldn’t out-earn teacher

 

08/24/02 -- At the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League on Military Trail in West Palm Beach, dog training volunteer Bonnie Peacock (cq) of Jupiter works with a male dalmation named Jake. The ARL has 75 dog-training volunteers who have given 3500 hours of training time to 1400 dogs. (The ARL has a total of about 400 volunteers, including cat socializers and dog walkers.) "It is very satisfying when you work with a dog and then you see him go home with a family," says Nielsen.  "It is good to know your small amount of work with the dog made a difference." BRUCE R. BENNETT/Staff Photographer
BRUCE R. BENNETT/Staff Photographer

In reference to the article that substitute teachers are paid $13.50 per hour (“Substitutes in county earn less than bus drivers,” April 25), I did some research and found that my friend’s daughter is paid $15 for walking one dog.

Priorities, people; priorities.

ELLIOT SLOTNICK, BOYNTON BEACH

Letter: Naming blameless tiger who killed zookeeper serves no one

hatiYour lead story in the April 20 paper featured a photo of the tiger that you suspect killed a zookeeper, along with his name and life history (“Evidence points to stud tiger Hati as Palm Beach Zoo keeper’s killer”). Your article also says, “Zoo officials appealed to all media sources to refrain from naming the tiger” for the safety of the animal.

Yet you couldn’t resist. What do you think can be gained by revealing the identity? The zoo stated that they have received threats against the unnamed tiger.

As tragic as Stacey Konwiser’s death is, it should come as no surprise. It’s like a race car driver dying in a 200-mph crash, or a base jumper dying when his parachute does not deploy. Those are heartbreaking events, but not entirely unexpected.

Everybody knows that tigers are wild animals, especially zookeepers like Stacey who make it their life work. She knew the inherent danger of the job and chose to do it. The tiger, on the other hand, had no choice in the matter. He did not choose to be born and raised in captivity and was simply behaving the way his DNA tells him to.

Again, I do find Stacey’s death horribly tragic, and my heart goes out to her family. She loved these animals and understood them better than anybody.

The 911 caller’s behavior certainly raises eyebrows, and it seems suspicious that they were trying to cover something up from the onset. There is certainly fault to be found somewhere, but it is not the tiger’s.

GENA LEE OHMAN, LAKE WORTH

Editor’s note:

Tiger kills zookeeper: Should Palm Beach Zoo have shot tiger to save colleague? Pro and con

Tigers are back on display Monday, April 18, 2016, at the Palm Beach Zoo, which reopened today after the fatal attack on Friday on zookeeper Stacey Feige Konwiser. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)
Tigers are back on display at the Palm Beach Zoo. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

It’s disturbing to learn that workers at the Palm Beach Zoo, seeing a colleague severely injured by a tiger, waited for a tranquilizer to take effect — rather than shooting and killing the animal so that paramedics could get to her right away.

Until more facts of the Friday incident are released, we won’t know how long first responders had to wait before they could enter the “night house” where Stacey Feige Konwiser lay after being mauled by a 300-pound Malay tiger. Once paramedics did reach the 37-year-0ld veteran zookeeper, they called in an air rescue helicopter to take her to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Zoos, of course, must be devoted to the welfare of the animals in their care. But when a human life is at stake — if there is any possibility of saving that life — it seems a seriously misplaced priority to put an animal’s life first. The only way this delay could have been defensible would be if it were clear upon sight that Konwiser’s injuries were fatal.

The zoo has a lot of questions to answer here.

— Howard Goodman

Stacey Konwiser at the dedication of the new tiger habitat at the Palm Beach Zoo on March 7, 2015 in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Brianna Soukup / Palm Beach Post)
Stacey Konwiser at the dedication of the new tiger habitat at the Palm Beach Zoo on March 7, 2015 in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Brianna Soukup / Palm Beach Post)

Shooting the Malayan tiger would have been wrong.

That’s not to say that one life is more important than another. Far from it. But the tiger was likely acting and responding as a tiger would, and putting blame on him for behaving as tigers behave naturally wouldn’t have been the right course either.

Stacey Feige Konwiser clearly loved her “very personable boys,” the tigers that she carefully looked after at the Zoo, and anyone who is that close to an animal knows the potential risk involved. Animals, from the rescued cuddly domestic kitten to the Malayan tigers at the Palm Beach Zoo, can be personable, playful and loving, but they are animals. Even being spooked could cause a fatal yet unintended accident. They should not be blamed for acting on their natural instincts, and I have to believe that someone who cared for these tigers as Konwiser did would feel the same way.

By the same token, the Zoo — thankfully — has never had to deal with a situation like this in its 60-year history, and the reality of such an attack likely differs from simulations. Rescue workers should not have had to wait for a tranquilizer to take effect to attend to Konwiser. Were the emergency protocols in place the right ones to efficiently handle the situation for the best possible outcome?

Let the Zoo learn from this tragedy and carry on caring for these tigers that Stacey loved so much.

— Kristyn Wellesley