Dear Jon – If you're confused about whether your dog can accompany you into a store or supermarket you're not alone. Our viewer emailed me and asks, "Dear Jon, why are dogs other than service dogs allowed in department stores and supermarkets?" There's federal law that bears on this topic but it's not clear cut.
The federal law, Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, allows for service dogs access to these establishments with the owners. This includes restaurants but where things get a bit vague is there's no mandate in the law that says you have to prove your dog is a service dog when you're asked. Such as your dog wearing a vest with a service tag, those with service dogs can choose to display a patch or carry papers or not.
Many establishments have a policy beyond service dogs, to allow comfort or companion dogs into their business on a leash or in a basket. Some stores or hotels will absolutely not allow comfort dogs, typically for sanitary reasons.
The problem many people run into is that the establishment and or the dog owner don't know the policy or the law themselves, potentially creating a standoff between the business and the patron. So it boils down to ADA and the store's policy of whether they'll allow the dog inside. Perhaps first checking with the store about their policy when you enter with your dog is a good practice.
Companion dogs are generally not allowed in restaurants in California. Yet some cities and restaurants do make accommodations for them. Adding to the confusion of what the law truly is.
As to service dogs, management can only ask two questions: Is this a service dog? And what is it trained to do? Lying about a service dog in California is a misdemeanor offense.
If you have a question for Dear Jon, click the Dear Jon tab on the home page. I'm also on Facebook and Twitter.
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