A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: All dogs go to heaven, but they don’t need to accompany you while shopping in stores


If you have visited a retail establishment or a home improvement store recently, it’s pretty obvious that the country has been going to the dogs — literally!

On my most recent home improvement trip to Home Depot over the weekend, I counted four dogs inside the store. I nearly tripped over one of those dogs that was on a leash because the owner was allowing his pet to walk some 15 feet in front of him as it turned the corner, causing the leash to wrap around my leg.

In order to keep the peace, I opted to say nothing to the dog owner at the time and just untangled myself. I gave the owner a stare and just shook my head when he didn’t even acknowledge the incident. But when I ran across Grayson Allen once again a few aisles over, still 15 feet in front of him, I did make a point loud enough to be heard while warning my wife that “the dog will trip you and it will be the irresponsible dog owner’s fault” as we passed by.

Back in the day, purse-sized dogs paved the way for this change, but the main reason these pooches are frolicking through the aisles of your favorite stores today is because of the Americans with Disabilities Act that gave legal blessing to service dogs for the disabled in the workplace, home, and public accommodations.

Stores, restaurants, theaters, workplaces, and other spaces must allow service dogs because a service animal is not considered a pet. Even if your business has a no-pets policy, you must accommodate a person’s service dog. Due to health reasons, grocery stores are far stricter but they are allowed. Pursuant to the United States Department of Justice guidelines, only dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities qualify as “Service Animals.”

A person with a service animal can only be asked two questions by a business owner: Is the dog required because of a disability? What task is the dog trained to perform? However, the business owner cannot ask what their disability is, nor do the service dog owner have to show any papers or proof that their dog has been trained to complete a task. Over the years stores have been successfully sued for inquiring too much or denying entry to people with service animals.

With that said, there’s a legal difference between service animals and emotional support animal, as emotional support animals are not covered under the ADA laws. However, the federal government does allow emotional support animals to fly on planes.

As a result, pet owners everywhere have been taking advantage of the situation as stores have liberalized their policy by allowing people to bring in their dogs while they shop. With such confusing laws and fear of lawsuits, most stores simply allow the dogs without question. And the more people see dogs in businesses, the more other people will feel free to bring their own animals.

Pet ownership in the U.S. has exploded, and as a result, businesses have become increasingly accommodating to dogs in order to get dog owners to come and spend their money in their establishments.

In addition to pet stores, Old Navy, Lowes, Home Depot, Tractor Supply, Foot Locker, Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, Pottery Barn, Hobby Lobby, Bath & Body Works, Bed Bath & Beyond Gap, The Apple Store and Saks Fifth Avenue all allow dogs while you shop.

In fact, there is a website called www.bringfido.com that you can search your area to see what stores, restaurants and events. According to the website, there are 98 pet-friendly restaurants in Lexington, 20 in Florence, and 10 in Covington that welcome dogs at their outdoor tables.

As a risk management safety professional that loves dogs, I can still see the tremendous amount of liability to the dog owner and the business owners when dogs are allowed into local retail establishments, restaurants, venues. Walking a spunky oversized Great Dane through a china store or a known aggressive dog breed such as a Rottweiler or Doberman Pinscher all come with a very notable high degree of risk compared to a small docile Maltese or Poodle.

In addition to dog attacks, dogs can cause slip and fall hazards if he or she decides to mark its territory while shopping with the family. They can also break or destroy merchandise, cause distractions that lead to accidents and they can also spread diseases bacterial infection.

The major problem, however, is that some pet owners don’t sense the degree of risk that some of their pets pose to the general public, as dog attacks in pet-friendly stores are starting to escalate at an alarming rate.

•In 2018 – five people in were bitten by two pit bulls inside and outside a Walgreens in a Wellington, Fla.

•In 2018 – a pit bull killed a beagle outside a Pet Smart store in Saginaw Township, Mich., after the pit bull escaped the owner’s control.

•In 2018 – A 3-year-old girl was hospitalized after suffering an eye injury and several stitches at the Home Depot in Downers Grove, Ill., near a checkout counter when she was attacked by a Doberman Pinscher bit the girl in the face requiring stitches.

•In 2013 – A 3-year-old boy was bitten by a dog on a leash in the garden center inside a Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Murrieta, N.C. The attack and bitten in the face required 50 stitches and the family then sued the Lowe’s and dog’s owner for damages. The dog owner was later arrested and charged with felony negligence.

Retailers and restaurants have a duty to protect its customers from known dangers and therefore can also be held liable to the customers if a customer is injured in a dog attack.

Dog owners are also strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs, regardless of whether the dog previously exhibited any propensity for viciousness. The good news is that your homeowner’s policy usually will cover you and your family’s pet’s negligent behavior no matter where it happens. The key word here is “usually,” so you still should confirm this with your insurance agent.

However, you have to have homeowners or renters insurance to be protected. I would also suggest that you purchase an umbrella policy that covers claims that exceed your regular homeowner’s policy limits.

As dog owners, if you still insist on bring your dog shopping with you, I recommend the following:

•Make Sure You Have Insurance – Regardless how sweet you think your dog is, they can still bite somebody else and you will need insurance or have deep pockets to offset a claim against Czar.

•Leash Law – Always keep your pet on a leash, even if your dog is riding in a shopping cart.

•Know Your Dog – A good pet owner will know the dog’s demeanor and what could set him off and you will control your dog when certain triggers pop up.

•Practice Courtesy – keep your dog close to you at all times, everybody doesn’t like dogs and in fact, some people have a phobia which is called Cynophobia. This phobia can be very debilitating and cause people to flee in a flight of fear and can get hurt in the process.

•No Roaming – Keep your pet within 1-2 feet from you and don’t let your pet roam while on a leash.

•Control Your Dog – If you can’t control your dog while on a leash you shouldn’t take your dog shopping.

•Take A Walk – Take a brisk 10-minute walk before you enter any stores, to take the edge off your dog’s friskiness.

•Clean Up After Your Pet – If your dog decides to relieve himself, always clean up afterward. Remember to never leave a wet spot on a floor because somebody can walk thru it and fall by the time you return.

•Muzzle Your Dog – If you are worried about your dog’s demeanor, muzzle your dog anytime you bring him or her out in the public.

If you are ever bitten or hurt by a dog while shopping, make sure that you get the pet owner’s identity and contact information; and if the owner leaves without giving it ask somebody to follow them out to their vehicle to get their plate number. Then immediately contact the store manager to fill out an incident report. Take photos of the dog, injuries, and the scene and ask for contact information from any witnesses that may have observed the incident. Make note if there were any video cameras in the area, and if you or a family member is injured, make sure you seek medical attention.

As a devoted card-carrying dog lover who will probably be asked by some to turn in my card after writing this article, just note that I’m just looking out for you and others in these stores. I recognize that all dogs go to heaven, but there are still 4.7 million dog bites in the U.S. each year of which 800,000 of those bites resulted in medical attention, according to the CDC.

That means a dog bites one out of every 69 people and by taking fluffy with you to scope out those new appliances, you are only increasing your odds of being sued. Just for the record, in 2017 there were 18,522 dog bite claims with the average $37,051 cost per claim according to the Insurance Information Institute.

So do yourself and everybody else a favor, and leave your dogs at home. Your dog won’t disown you, and I promise you he/she will be just as excited to see you when you get home.

Be Safe, My Friends

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.


Related Posts

Leave a Comment