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Taking your pet to the shops

I am member of several camping/travelling Facebook groups and this comes up on a regular basis. People who decide that for whatever reason they should/can take their pet in to the shops. I have made a Facebook post about this, but I wanted to go in to even more detail in this blog post about why this causes harm to the assistance dog community. This applies to any animal – cat, dog, bird and it doesn’t matter if its being carried, in a bag or in a pet stroller either. You are still causing harm to a group of disabled people who spend much of their life fighting for the right to do the very things you take for granted like going to the shops to get some milk and bread.

Firstly, and this should be reason enough – it is against the law to take pets in to pet prohibited places. You can get premises (especially any that sell food) massive fines for breaching food health and safety laws for having an animal on the premises.

You are also putting people like me, people who use assistance dogs at unnecessary risk. It takes an incredible amount of training to make sure that an assistance dog is safe and properly behaved in these environments, I promise you, your pet hasn’t got that training and experience. Also, should your dog see my assistance dog and bark/growl/yap/lunge at him you are literally putting my life at risk. If he is distracted by your pet that should not be there anyway and he misses an alert that has very real and extremely dangerous outcomes for me as his handler. I have had people argue that shouldn’t an assistance dog be trained to ignore distractions. Yes, our assistance dogs are trained to an incredibly high standard and that includes training them to ignore as much as possible, but they are not robots. They are still living, breathing sentient beings with their own thoughts and feelings and they can and do break their training. And honestly, wouldn’t you be distracted if someone were yelling and screaming and lunging at you?  Other assistance dogs in stores are not a distraction to each other as both are respectful of the other. Your pet on the other hand, 99% of the time, it is going to be the one that started it, not the assistance dog.

Every time the gatekeepers or public sees pets in places, they are prohibited it further undermines legitimate assistance animals. They either assume it is a fake assistance animal, or they feel outraged enough that someone has brought a pet in and they want to create more barriers to prevent this very behaviour. What that does in effect for me and my community is create more instances of access denial and discrimination to legitimate teams and if it gets bad enough the government is going to get even more involved making the laws around assistance animals even more restrictive and with even more hoops to jump through which causes unfair burden on people with a disability. We are already facing people calling for additional laws, central registration of assistance dogs and such. I will be doing a further blog post about why although this sounds like a brilliant idea on the surface it is actually terrible for my community and will have a detrimental impact on a large number of assistance animal handlers should it come to pass.

Do you know what it’s like to be kicked out of the supermarket and abused by staff because you wanted to buy your groceries? I do. I know it well, and the reason this happens so much is because of people who try to take their pets in these places. So please, just because you’ve “gotten away with it” doesn’t mean it does not impact on other people. The above reasons are very real and while YOU might have gotten away with it in doing so YOU are causing harm to the assistance animal community. All we want is the ability to go to the shops safely and without discrimination – just like you. We are asking for a small amount of consideration from people who have inherent privilege by not being disabled and needing an assistance animal. You have other options. You can leave your animal home set up with shade, water and ventilation. You can choose to shop early in the morning or late in the evening outside of the hottest hours of the day, you can organise a pet sitter. You can leave your animal tied up outside. We on the other hand do NOT have a choice. I can assure you every single assistance dog handler would tell you if they had the choice of not having a disability that NEEDED an assistance dog and leaving their animal at home they would much rather be non-disabled and have a lovely pet – just like you, rather then be so disabled that they need an assistance animal.

If you choose to leave your dog outside the shop, please do not tie it up right near the door. I must navigate getting in and out of the store with my assistance dog, and I must assume every unattended tied up dog is a risk to my assistance dog. I do not know if that dog is going to ignore my assistance dog or try to attack him. When you tie your dog up right near the entryway especially where there is a single door it makes my life harder and is frankly terrifying.

Assistance dog handlers appreciate you doing the right thing and being considerate about where you leave your dog if tied up unattended.

Tags : assistancedog