Oregon reminds grocery shoppers: No dogs allowed

PORTLAND — Keep your paws off the meat.

The state Department of Agriculture is starting a public awareness campaign next month to remind Oregonians it’s illegal for dogs to enter grocery stores — unless it’s a service dog.

“There’s a trend, a growing trend, for people to treat their pets like a member of the family, but they forget we still have to draw the line between our furry children and those without paws,” said Vance Bybee, administrator of the agency’s Food Safety Division.

Bybee said the division gets more than 100 complaints a year about dogs doing inappropriate things in grocery stores, from urinating in the aisles to sniffing and licking food. The Portland Farmers Market banned dogs earlier this year because vendors and shoppers complained about sanitation, safety and crowding. One vendor lost a sandwich to a dog, and one customer who got tangled in a leash had to be taken to the hospital.

ODA officials hope the campaign will improve the situation. The dog-shaped posters and brochures will start appearing in grocery stores in September.

“Interestingly enough, we get more complaints in Bend and in the Pearl District of Portland where people are more affluent and have the opportunity to pamper their pets and feel this pet is a part of my family so I am entitled to do with it what I like,” Bybee said.

Besides the sense of entitlement, Bybee believes the situation has worsened because retailers are hesitant to ask customers personal questions about service dogs, fearing lawsuits. Managers can ask what your dog has been trained to do but not what your disability is.

“The person needs to identify the service the animal performs that they can’t do for themselves,” Bybee said. “There must be a direct link. It’s OK for retailers to ask that question.”

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