Dear Annie: Normally I don't respond to newspaper columns, but I felt compelled to reply to the letter from "Please Leave Animals at Home." She said her grandson was allergic to animals, and asked why people bring their pets into stores and place them in the carts where children sit.
She said she'd had dogs, cats, pigs and horses and would never take them into a store. She mentioned one particular woman who had a dog wrapped in a blanket, seated in the cart.
First, animals are not allowed in the store unless they are service animals. Some stores require that you put these animals on the floor and others require that you put them in your cart. She didn't mention whether this woman's dog was a service animal. Service animals must be trained, and you must have a written note from your doctor. The animal must also have a vest and tags.
Many people are physically dependent on their animals. When I go into a store, 99 percent of the people love my dog and talk to me about him, and I cheerfully talk back. I'm not required to tell them the medical reason for my animal, but I will. If store management asks whether the dog is a service animal, I am required to show the paperwork.
My dog does not shed. He does hospital and nursing home visits with me, attends church and is a youth group leader animal. I also have him certified as a therapy dog so it's official when we visit. He has sat for 12 hours with people who are in their last hours of life. We always ask before we go into a room to see whether someone wants a visit so we don't upset anyone or approach those with allergies.
"Leave" should mind her own business. She should make a donation to an animal shelter or other charity of her choice. Thank you for letting me vent and tell the other side of the story. -- A.
Dear A.: Service animals are a medical necessity. They are trained and clearly identifiable. They are not a problem, and we don't believe "Leave" thought so, either. Some stores do allow dogs of any kind, but there is a third variety known as "comfort animals." These are important companions for people with severe emotional problems. Unfortunately, many people claim their pets are comfort animals when, in fact, they are not trained at all. Store owners and other proprietors are reluctant to argue with customers who insist that their dogs be allowed on the premises for fear that they will be sued for discriminating against those with disabilities. These issues need to be cleared up so that genuine comfort animals are recognized as such.
Here's one more from an angry reader:
Dear Annie: A simple Google search will reveal all stores and restaurants where dogs are allowed. If her grandson is that allergic, she should check each place she visits so she can prevent him from having an attack. For people who don't have children, animals are their babies. If you don't want to see animals, stay at home. -- Hate Dealing with Stupid People
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