9/03/2009

Oregon Goes to the Dogs

It seems that Oregon is a little too dog friendly. Well, certain affluent parts of Oregon are a little too dog friendly.

According to a story in the New York Times the Pearl District area of Portland loves their dogs so much people take them everywhere, even to the grocery store! Unfortunately, the non-dog lovers hate that.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture that oversees food regulation (and by extension grocery stores) is cracking down on "non-service animals" being allowed in supermarkets.
In response to the complaints, Oregon is about to begin an unusual campaign, distributing posters and pamphlets to about 4,500 retail stores that sell food. The message is this: Animals, except those trained to help the disabled, are not allowed.

The federal Food Code, based on language from the Americans with Disabilities Act, describes service animals as aiding people with physical disabilities and performing certain tasks the disabled person cannot, like those provided by Seeing Eye dogs. The code says, too, that a service animal is not considered a pet.
As the article at the Times points out its a gray area though. Stores are limited in how much they can question people about their disability and there are no laws requiring service animals to be licensed or identified with a special collars or vests.

Yet, the paradox I see in all this is that "dogs" are considered "dirty" and not allowed in a grocery store while "service dogs" are considered somehow magically "not dirty" and are OK. I understand that some people don't socialize their pets well and they shouldn't be taken into a store. However, the same argument could be made for certain people's children. After all, who hasn't been shopping and noticed little Johnny tearing down the aisles, pulling things off the shelf, helping himself to all the free samples in a display, running carts into people's legs and otherwise being a nuisance? Yet, no one would ever deign to say that mothers should not be allowed to bring their children to the store because they are dirty, loud and obnoxious.

I've seen dogs who are much better behaved and generally better groomed than a lot of children. Many companion dogs are equally as well tempered as any service dog. Why then, is the service dog allowed the privilege of accompanying their owner while the equally well groomed and well-behaved companion animal made to be tied to the cart railing out front?

If the issue is one of cleanliness then logic dictates the service dog shouldn't be there either and the store should provide a human guide for the person instead. But why let logic get in the way of making multiple rule sets based not on health code concerns but on what is PC.

BTW: The Pearl District sounds like a marvelous place to live. Unfortunately, areas like that don't often welcome fluffy people like me and I'm always afraid we'll be sacrificed to the Gods of Yoga and Organic Soy Milk by the uber fitness nutrition nazis!

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