Should Non-Service Dogs be Allowed in Grocery Stores?

August 23, 2012

By Langley Cornwell

In the home improvement store last night, we stood in line with a collie and a hound dog while waiting for our duplicate keys. We stopped for frozen yogurt on the way home and sat at a table beside a French bulldog.

I used to think it was a big deal that you could take your dog along when you shopped at a big box pet shop. Now it seems you can bring your pet almost anywhere, and I’m mostly okay with that. But a west coast friend and I were discussing this trend and she said she’s seen more and more dogs showing up in grocery stores. I’m not okay with that.

Seeing dogs when I shop at an office supply store or a home improvement center is fine, even nice if they’re well behaved. Enjoying a cup of coffee or a light lunch al fresco among the animals is also fine, if the pet isn’t a nuisance. But I don’t want dogs in my grocery store.

This may sound hypocritical because our pets have no restrictions in our house. The dog is often right under my feet as I prepare dinner. But it’s our dog and our dog hair. Somehow, that makes a difference.

To get a reality check, I posed the question to some friends, all of them over-the-top animal lovers. Here’s a sampling of the responses:  

Juniper thinks it’s a bad idea all around. “I know that some dogs are better behaved than your average toddler, but many (if not most) can be unpredictable. They might jump on a kid, pee on the floor, tear into a bag of dog food, lunge at another dog… It’s just a nightmare waiting to happen. It’s also a health hazard.”

Debby says no. “What about shoppers who are allergic to dogs? I love dogs but where do you draw the line? If dogs are allowed, can I bring my gerbils in too? And my lizard and my parrot?”

Mary Beth also lines up with the no votes. “I love dogs. I think it would be fun to go grocery shopping with a dog, but I could see problems: accidents, dogs trying to eat food, barking and getting excited when they see another dog, and what if one got loose? How about those displays where things are piled up on the end of an aisle – if a dog hit one it could hurt him and make a mess.”

Deborah was adamant. “NO NO NO!  There are children in grocery stores running wild sometimes and you never know how a dog that isn’t used to children will react. Plus, I don’t want dog hair on my produce or my deli food or my meat. Let’s face it, animals don’t belong where there is food lying around open to the air. This applies to ALL animals, not only dogs. I would never take my cat into a grocery store, not even in one of those cute little totes.”

Jenne brings up the health issues: “No way, no how. You don’t know the temperament of their dogs, bringing them into a place that sells food could lead to a lot of cross contamination, spreading of diseases and so forth. I’m also sick of people with little dogs who think they can just stick the dog in their purse and take it anywhere they please. And this is coming from someone who actually works in an animal shelter.”

Crystal says no. “I love dogs, especially mine, but not all dogs are well trained or well behaved. A grocery store should be clean, and I’m sure that some would have accidents on the floor. They might even lift their leg on the products, and that’s disgusting! I wouldn’t shop at a grocery store that allowed dogs that were not service animals.”

One of my friends is recovering from cancer. She brings up an excellent point: “There was a time when I could not be around dogs when I was getting chemo because of my immune system. Of course I wasn’t up to shopping and would have had to wear a mask if I was – but still, it poses a health risk to many different people.”

Peggy relates a recent experience. “I was at a post office annex (in a gift shop) yesterday. A lady had a dog in line in front of me. It was well-behaved but it started barking at some dog statues on a shelf. It was hilarious, but no, dogs shouldn’t be in grocery stores.”

Some friends do think dogs should be allowed in grocery stores. Anne said “I’m more European in my approach and vote yes. People make a big deal about everything here but in France, dogs are very well behaved and go everywhere.”

Becky would like to allow some dogs. “If all dogs were well-behaved, yes. Unfortunately not all dogs are well-behaved, so I guess the answer is no.” Dan says “I think they’re okay in stores. I like them!” Cathy answers with a sweeping affirmation. “I think dogs of all kinds should be allowed everywhere.”

So where do you draw the line? Do you think non-service dogs should be allowed in grocery stores?

Photo by OtterBox

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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  1. Alex says:

    I’m about four years late to this party, but I wanted to chime in as a dog-owner of one year now.

    I can fully cosign on the notion of keeping non-service animals out of food-related retailers like a grocery store, unless the person has the dog in some kind of bag or carrier. Here in Chicago, health code laws prohibit non-service animals from food establishments, unless said animal is in some kind of a carrier. I started putting my small Morkie into a bag designed for carrying small dogs, and so far I’ve not been handed any resistance in grocery stores, mainly because he’s zipped up in the bag and contained.

    Now if I was told I can’t even do this, I’d understand. However, I do wish the US was more dog-friendly in the non-food establishments. With the stores that some claim are “pet friendly”, it’s more that they have not established official rulings, and no one has handed them resistance. That in my book is not the same as “pets welcome”.

    When I would visit my Wife’s native Slovakia, I’m astounded how you can take pets on a leash into malls. They’re not allowed in any food establishments, but you can walk your dog in the main promenade, and many non-food retailers have no issue if your pet comes in with you.

    I love this because it’s more opportunity to get your pet out of the house, and especially because it’s a warm refuge to take your dog for a walk in a cold winter. I know when Chicago is in full winter, it’s difficult to get my dog some exercise when there’s snow, salt, and freezing temps outside. I’d honestly love if I could drive him to the mall for a walk.

    Now…I get though why it’s not caught on in the US. Personally, I think it’s the issue that many Americans cannot be as civilized as Europeans. When I stroll a mall in Slovakia, the dogs are small or medium-sized. No one brings their gigantic doberman or German shepherd to the mall. Also, it’s rare when a dog will pee or poop in the mall, mainly because owners are adamant about making sure their pets go to the bathroom outside before coming in. Even when an accident happens (saw it only once in the many years I’ve gone there), the owner was quick to clean it up on their own accord.

    Here in the US, we have a problem where many think “freedom” means you can do anything you want no matter who it offends or inconveniences. Thus I imagine many with big, unruly dogs taking them to malls, and many letting their animals pee/poop when no one’s looking, and leaving it on the floor (I draw this from how many who never pick up after their animals outside).

    It’s a shame a few bad apples will spoil things for the many. Still, I wish the US was more open about bringing pets into public indoor spaces.

  2. Lilah says:

    My vote is yes if they are well behaved. Mine is training to be a service dog, but I do not see how any other (especially small) well trained dog can be any more of a health hazard. Yes I realize some people are allergic, unfortunately that is life, and dog or no dog present dog and cat dander along with many other allergens are possibly present from pet owners clothing alone. Allergy sufferers should always be aware of their surroundings as best possible and manage their issues, there are many different allergens and they are everywhere no matter what.

    As for dogs in shopping carts, as soon as babies butts and leaky diapers are not allowed, and the carts are never outside where germs, bacteria, birds and their poop, rain, bottom of purses, etc are never in the carts maybe we would have an argument that allowing small dogs there is an issue, but dogs happen to be clean animals anyway.

    1. poppy says:

      well said. In Europe you are allowed dogs everywhere and we are still alive!

  3. Kathryn says:

    Absolutely not. They are pets,animals&do in fact carry germs,bark,bite,lick their butts(do you REALLY want to eat an apple after seeing a dog that has just done that,lick that apple? NO. Do you even want to SEE that,while considering what to have for dinner? NO.),severe allergies(and yes,those people have more right to shop there safely,than you do to take your dog there,’just because you want to’&not because you actually need to),people pet the dogs&then handle deli meats(I saw that happen 2 weeks ago >_<),dogs shed all over,dogs may crap/pee on the floor,there may be dogs fighting in the aisles….this list could go on. Then there's people who put them in the shopping carts,where other people will put there food…ugh! Just so many reasons not to allow dogs in grocery stores,eateries,clothing stores,or most public places. Seems like so many refuse to understand this,because they(VERY disturbingly,IMO)think dogs are human&treat them as such&demand they be given the same(if not more)rights than another actual human. They are animals,not humans&not children. IDK what is wrong with people who seem to believe that they 'simply can't' leave the pooch at home,or at a friends&MUST take it everywhere with them. Obsessed,or deeply insecure maybe? IDK,but it sure seems like it. Smh&ugh. And BTW,I am not meaning people who have a genuine,physical need for a service dog,to help them with physical tasks from day to day,I am talking about just your average pet dog. Having said that,I'd rather have people helping those who need help shopping do so,instead of even letting service dogs in stores. Pets of any kind,really should not be in any store,that is not an actual pet store.

  4. Joeyr says:

    I like dogs but they should never and I mean never be allow in stores. My daughter and I were in Home Depot and all of a sudden she said , there is a dog in here. She has severe allergies and asthma. Sure enough I saw a lady a few feet away with a small dog in her cart. We left, the store lost a sale and we had to drive to the emergengy room where we spent the rest of the day and part of the night. I was furious. This woman couldn’t leave her dog at home. People need to realize dogs are dogs and people are more important. People with dogs need to realize there are people wirh severe allergies and their suffering is severe, so consider others before you bring your dog into public places.

    1. poppy says:

      dogs (animals) are as important as people. There was a time when taking dogs to restaurants and shops (well behaved dogs) was the norm. Not sure when out of the blue we are brainwashed into thinking we will get sick if a dog is around. I am much more dubious of small children running wild in the isles with a runny nose and dirty hands touching everything and mother lets them. If dirty kids are allowed so can dogs. If either misbehave they should be made to leave the shop.

  5. Kevin says:

    Let’s approach this analytically: If service dogs are allowed, what makes them different than other dogs? It would appear it is their training. To those who ask “what about animal dander?” I would say that there is no prohibition on the owner petting their service dog, so that too is irrelevant. What about barking? this too goes back to training, and I’m not sure barking is any worse than a crying child. When it comes to germs, how many times have I seen a little kid with grimy hands picking their nose, then picking through the fresh vegetables? However, there is the perception that a god on a leash could do all sorts of things (biting, urinating, etc.). What about a dog in a carrier, where they cannot bite, be petted, and cannot come in contact with anything other than their carrier? This seems reasonable. However, some ask “why” would you take your dog anywhere in a carrier? The answer is simple: because you may be going places all day long, and the notion of having to go home, drop off the dog, then do your shopping seems silly if you can simply put your dog into their carrier and take it into the store with you. Leaving the dog in the car is cruel and often against the law…so ultimately, my hypoallergenic dog that does not shed has to stay home alone rather than fit into a small carrier that fits onto any airplane and into the top portion of my grocery cart. Where does logic end and emotional decisions begin?

    1. Robert McFeeley says:

      Your hypoallergenic dog still causes asthma attacks to members of my family. My father in law, brother in law and daughter is severely allergic that we can not place our coats in a coat check because they will be in the hospital that night with an asthma attack. My daughter had her first asthma attack when she was 2 years old and could not talk. Placing your dog in the child seat in a grocery cart could kill a child. It is not the hair of the dog that causes the attack but the dander. Whenever we go on vacation we map out the local hospital because so many people sneak dogs into hotels.

      1. Melanie says:

        Your body lotion, perfume, hair spray, laundry softener all cause me to have allergic reactions. My dog? Not a problem.

        It’s all perspective.

    2. poppy says:

      totally agree. I had a little debate today about my dog in a bag (3 moths old and non shedding) with the girl on the till. They just tell you the mantra that is not allowed. Why? I ask. That’s just how it is, was the answer. But why, what is the reason? Dirty kids are here, fingers in runny noses touching everything? Brainless people who just follow orders and are not allowed or don;t want to think.There should be exceptions to any rule.

  6. Stefanie says:

    I think small dogs in carriers should be allowed in any non-medical place. Basically, I think if you can take children somewhere, well behaved dogs should be able to go to — properly dogs are no more intrusive, dirty, or illness-causing than children, and when in a carrier, I’d say that dogs are far less intrusive and disgusting than children.

    On a recent 4-hour bus ride, my dog slept in her carrier at my feet the entire time. The woman sitting next to me did not even realize my dog was there until we were getting up to exit the bus and she saw her in the carrier bag. When I was in Paris, dogs were with their owners everywhere, the bakery, church, restaurants, shops, etc., they were perfectly well-behaved, and it was lovely.

    Properly trained children and dogs should be allowed into most places, and poorly trained children and dogs should not.

  7. K9rotehexe says:

    I grew up in Germany (Wuerzburg) and use to take my dog EVERYWHERE. The only place they were not allowed was the grocery stores and that is totally acceptable. Not because of behavior but for sanitary reasons. When I moved to the USA at age 26 I was very shocked at how dog unfriendly the USA really is. So what that you have pet stores and dog parks. I had having to take my dog home after a visit at the local petstore because I go anywhere else. That would be the reason why people don’t socialize thier pets and they have so many dog bites here.
    I truely believe that the reason the USA has so many issues with dogs that are unsocialized and misbehaved IS because they are not allowed anywhere but the pet store. Sure Germany has dog fighting rings as well and aggressive dogs but generally those dogs are the ones that are chained and uncared for.

  8. As a disabled person with a service dog, I have to say that only service dogs should be allowed in grocery stores. Despite the ADA and all the laws that guarantee my right to have my service dog with me in public places, I am always shocked by how many times my service dog and I are told to leave. To me, allowing non-service dogs into grocery stores will only cloud the issue and make it more difficult for those who need service dogs to be able to take their service dog with them. I would hate to have the law changed, forcing me to bring documentation of my need for a service dog.

    That being said, I do believe that those people with emotional support dogs should be given the same rights as those with service dogs, if the emotional support dogs are properly trained. People need the emotional support dog in public just as much, perhaps even more, as they do at home.

    I am also concerned about my service dog being exposed to untrained dogs. An untrained dog could attack my service dog, causing severe injury or even death. Of course, people could be attacked as well, but my personal concern would be for my service dog simply because I am unable to function without her.

  9. Candes King says:

    For the allergy reason alone I would say no. Pet dander can get everywhere and you can’t always see it. When it comes to the foods we buy in grocery stores we can’t always wash them first. You can’t wash bread before you eat it, like you can wash a shirt before you wear it.

  10. Priscilla says:

    Living in a country that dogs are not allowed in most of the public places, it’s a blessing that we can take our dogs to some limited sores like pet stores and that’s the only place they are allowed in.

  11. terrepruitt says:

    I love my pets and consider them a part of the family, but I do not believe dogs/pets belong in grocery stores or ANY public place that food is being served. I understand that a service dog is necessary, but they have different “rules”. Most of the time they are wearing a vest (that cuts down on their hair/fur getting all over) and they are not allowed to be petted because they are “working”. A non-service dog is still an animal and with all the bacteria and other “stuff” that affects our food sources I think it is pretty darn gross when a pet is in a grocery store. Especially when they are in the shopping carts where people have to put their food.

    Yes, I have seen people pushing their dogs IN THE SHOPPING carts. And they are not those little dogs in purses they are medium sized dogs IN THE CART! It is as if people have lost all common sense and common courtesy. If someone is ok petting their own dog or any dog then touching produce and other food items in their own home, that is their own business, but I don’t think it should be allowed in stores.

    I believe there are places and times for things but not all things belong in all places at all times. Pets in stores and restaurants is not very polite.

  12. Pat Anthony says:

    Good points. It does make a difference when it is your dog- We enjoy pets, but there is a limit.

    We don’t actually want our pets around some of the humans we meet, or some of the dogs we meet in certain stores.

    Sounds smug, but we have to protect the pets from being exposed to who knows what-

  13. Sheba. says:

    I take Sheba into our local shop and she just sits at my side. Where there’s food it’s different though so i will say no to grocery stores. I’ve been told dogs shouldn’t be in public places because they’re dirty I’ve met a lot of unhygenic humans as well. I supose the thing to remember is not everyone is a dog lover.

  14. I don’t believe children belong in BARS and don’t believe dogs belong in a grocery store.

  15. meowmeowmans says:

    I LOVE dogs, but I just don’t think bringing them to the grocery store is a good idea. So I’m going to vote “no.”

  16. I think that NO dogs who are not service dogs should ever be in ANY store setting..especially restaurant and grocery stores for all the reasons mentioned above but most of all, 1. I am allergic to dogs. My 2 days back scratch test at the allergist proves that. 2. It’s unsanitary and intrusive if you are trying to have a meal.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I was going to spend the time to voice my opinion but Crystal in the article sums it up perfectly. I would think that 95% of people are going to feel this same way.

  18. Marg says:

    Seeing as how I helped to train a dog to be a service dog and know how much it takes to train these dogs and there are many many rules to taking the dogs into any kind of store. So I say NO to just any dogs allowed to go into a grocery store. There are so many things that can happen.

  19. Jo's World says:

    In England, dogs are allowed to ride public transportation, trains, buses, etc. I would love this for my dog. Grocery stores? I would feel OK if it was my dog,as far as some errand grocery shopping. But I wouldn't take her when I did my big shopping.She just loves to sniff the mail when it comes in, what would she do with grocery items? But not sure about the general population of dogs.


    Stella says: I'll be good! I'll be good!

  20. Jo's World says:

    In England, dogs are allowed to ride public transportation, trains, buses, etc. I would love this for my dog. Grocery stores? I would feel OK if it was my dog,as far as some errand grocery shopping. But I wouldn’t take her when I did my big shopping.She just loves to sniff the mail when it comes in, what would she do with grocery items? But not sure about the general population of dogs.


    Stella says: I’ll be good! I’ll be good!

  21. Diane Gray says:

    I do not know can you pay attention to what you are looking for and give the dog the watchful eye that it needs and deserves. You need two hands to push your grocery cart and pick out your produce. How would you hold the dogs leash? I would have to go with NO. My 2 labs stay home and rifle through the bags when I come home. LOL

  22. Anonymous says:

    “I’m more European in my approach and vote yes. People make a big deal about everything here but in France, dogs are very well behaved and go everywhere.”
    I don’t like the idea of FiFi sticking her nose into the Falafel.

  23. Finn says:

    I would have to be on the no side as well! I know how Finn acts in my kitchen just sniffing my dinner or breakfast. I can’t imagine her in a whole store! BOL! On the other hand, I haven’t seen any non-service dogs in our gardening store or office store. I would love to take her there just to let her see where we are going sometimes when we can’t take her with us!