A pooch in a purse can't be classified as 'service
by Carol McAlice Currie
Editor: Are you bothered by people who take their pet dogs
everywhere, claiming they are service animals? This seems to be a
growing trend, and I think it makes it tougher for real service animals
to be accepted in public places. Some folks are taking steps to reverse
This article is reprinted with permission of the Statesman Journal
Folks who abhor fur in their food, rejoice! The Oregon Department of
Agriculture's Food Safety Division is offering retailers, restaurateurs
and Statesman Journal readers the information they need to stop people
with pets from taking them inside eateries and grocery stores by
disguising them as "service animals."
For far too long, some folks have been abusing the Americans with
Disabilities Act. Specifically, they have been challenging store
managers to know the difference between a service animal and a pet.
These managers, fearing a discrimination lawsuit, have turned a blind
eye to Chihuahuas in handbags.
This crowd harms the disabled community by sullying the reputation of
true service animals brought into places such as Wal-Mart. They also
threaten food sanitation.
Robert Clancy, who manages the Englewood East Apartments in Salem,
was disgusted last week when he encountered what he believes were
nothing more than pampered pets at the Lancaster Drive NE Wal-Mart.
What offended him more than the dog drool was the store's
indifference to a mid-sized poodle in the produce section and a corgi in
"The third time, I specifically sought the floor manager and
told her what I'd seen. All she said was 'Oh really,' and she made no
attempt to do anything," Clancy said.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber said all store employees are
trained to follow ADA rules, but they can question an animal's service
credentials if they suspect it's not authentic.
Clancy said that seeing three dogs in one week was two much for him,
so he called the Marion County Health Department. He was distressed that
no one there seemed interested, either. So he called the newspaper. My
call to the health department also resulted in a referral, but this one
brought me face to face with a helpful state employee who explained the
Michael Govro, the food safety division's assistant administrator,
said the trend of pets around public food probably stems from nebulous
language in the ADA. He said public complaints to his department have
been steadily rising.
Current Oregon administrative rules forbid animals in food
establishments except for guide dogs for the blind and the deaf. In an
effort to comply with the ADA, the state has drafted a new policy, which
expands the definition of "guide dog" to "service
This is where retailers are having to watch where they step.
According to the ADA Web site, service animals are any animals that are
individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, such
as guiding people who are blind or deaf, pulling wheelchairs, or
alerting a person who is having a seizure. Service animals are not pets.
Sitting in a purse does not constitute "service."
To their credit, store managers don't want to punish disabled folks,
and they're forbidden by law to ask what a person's disability is. But
they do have a right to ask what tasks the animal is trained for. If the
owner can't answer from the following list, the store owner has the
right to ask the owner to remove the pet.
The tasks are specifically manual, such as help with walking, seeing,
hearing, speaking, breathing, learning or working for people with a
physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of
life's major activities. Being told by a pet owner that "he makes
me calm" doesn't cut it.
Lawmakers need to close the gap and give true service animals
licensed identification and retailers the right to politely ask for it.
Think of this as a revenue-generating idea: Trained service animals
would come licensed, and the fee would be part of their cost. That's the
only way to protect groceries and restaurants for the rest of us.