Publix recently began posting large signs in its stores across the Southeast reminding customers that all non-service animals, including emotional support dogs, are not allowed in stores.
“Under federal law, service animals are dogs or miniature horses trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities,” the signs read. “Non-service animals are not allowed in grocery stores by the FDA. Dogs, pets, and other animals whose sole function is to provide comfort, companionship, or emotional support do not qualify as service animals and are not permitted in Publix, even with a doctor’s note.”
Publix’s signs also remind shoppers that laws prohibit people from misrepresenting their pets as service animals.
Publix’s policy on only allowing service animals has existed for years, and no reason was given for the new signs. However, articles in recent years have detailed how pets are increasingly being passed off by owners as emotional support animals to avoid fees and restrictions, including not being allowed on planes, restaurants, and stores. Many people obtain phony or questionable certifications.
Challenges enforcing such policies include stores not being able to ask for documentation to show it’s a service animal or about the handler’s disability. However, they can ask if the animal is a service dog and what it’s been trained to do.
One woman told WPTV that she planned to boycott Publix because the ban would disrupt her morning routine. On the other hand, a number of Letters to the Editor at the Tampa Bay Times praised the signs. One said, “I particularly don’t want animals around my food, no matter how much you love them, no matter how much you think they’re clean, no matter how well behaved you pretend they are.”
Service dog owners have also complained that the poor behavior of many emotional support animals distracts their working dogs. According to Publix’s service animal policy, service dogs must remain under the control of their handlers and aren’t allowed in shopping carts.
The move comes as dogs are increasingly welcomed in non-food stores, especially in urban markets where shoppers walk to stores. Last year, Wilko, the U.K.-based houseware chain, received a positive response for its decision to make two-thirds of its stores pet-friendly, although pets aren’t allowed in food aisles.