Therapy dog barred from B.C. grocery store

Abbotsford counsellor had brought her nine-year-old blind emotional support dog to Save-On for two years

An Abbotsford counsellor says it’s unfair that the grocery store she has shopped at for a decade has suddenly declared that her therapy dog – a nine-year-old blind pooch named Chloe – is unwelcome.

But Fraser Health says provincial legislation is clear: Animals other than certified service dogs and aquarium fish are barred from places that serve food.

Until mid-December, Rosemary Fromson had patronized the pharmacy at the Sumas Way Save-On-Foods for 14 years, the last two during which she had been accompanied by Chloe.

Fromson, who counsels patients but also deals with her own anxiety issues, says she received permission to bring Chloe into the store two years ago by the then assistant manager.

That changed last month, when Fromson said she was confronted by a lower-level Save-On manager, who had previously expressed displeasure with the dog’s presence. The man told her he had called head office about the dog, but Fromson said other Save-On managers reassured her that nothing would come from the complaint.

Two days later, though, Fromson said she was told only certified guide dogs – and not emotional support animals like Chloe – were permitted in the grocery store.

In an email to Fromson, the chain’s regional director, Cal Siemens, wrote that current provincial rules ban such animals from Save-On facilities.

“We recognize this is a complicated and emerging issue and we take it very seriously,” Siemens wrote in an email Fromson showed to The News. “Unfortunately, as it stands today there are no guidelines that allow for emotional support animals to be permitted in our operations.”

In the email, Siemens said the chain is “deeply committed to accessibility,” but that its hands are tied until the government creates new rules.

The province’s Public Health Act does state that operators of food premises cannot allow live animals on their premises, except for trained and certified guide dogs or service dogs. And while the law does allow for any other animal “that a health officer determines will not pose a risk of a health hazard occurring on the premises,” Fraser Health told The News that there “is no process for issuing exemptions for people with therapy animals.”

Fromson said emotional support animals can provide important help and comfort to those dealing with mental health challenges. She said Chloe is frequently embraced and celebrated by other customers and staff at the Save-On-Foods.

Chloe wears a small vest identifying her as a support dog, and Fromson said she has a certificate from a U.S. agency, but not from the B.C. government. She said support animals shouldn’t need training or certificates, and businesses and clients should be able to work out a suitable arrangement when it comes to such animals. If proof is required that the animal is legitimately needed, then Fromson suggested a doctor’s note or a signed statement should be sufficient.

Fromson questioned the health danger of such dogs, given that service animals are permitted to enter restaurants and grocery stores so long as they are kept away from those areas where food is being prepared and processes.

“It’s about compassion and understanding,” she said, adding that she was particularly bothered that emotional support dogs would now be banned from all of Save On’s stores.

“This is destroying lots of people who shop there.”

The News contacted Save On Foods by email last week. In response, the company said a spokesperson would be in touch, but subsequent emails have since gone unanswered.

RELATED: Lower Mainland graduation marks expansion of PTSD service dog program

RELATED: Therapy dogs make appearance at B.C. Games

RELATED: VIDEO: Therapy dogs makes students happier, study finds


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Truck convoy honouring Nanaimo boy who died after being struck by vehicle

Trucks left from Victoria and others joined along the way up the Island

Nanaimo women look for forward steps at march

Nanaimo Women March On held downtown on Saturday

Nanaimo candidate, premier address spec tax at B.C. NDP event

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

RDN board to vote on spending $150,000 for mapping software

ESRI Canada successful RFP proponent, RDN to vote as part of 2019 budget

Nanaimo’s École Hammond Bay school unveils new gym expansion

Larger gym can accommodate home games and assemblies

Keep focus on helping Canadians at home, Trudeau tells MPs at start of meeting

Trudeau said the Liberals will offer Canadians hope amid issue like climate change and global tensions

Pettersson returns to lead Canucks to 3-2 win over Red Wings

Vancouver’s super rookie has 2 points in first game back after knee injury

Support pours in for Vancouver Island couple whose home was destroyed by massive blaze

GoFundMe page reached $10,000 in one day for soon-to-be parents

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found in Cowichan Valley

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

Olympic softball qualifier to be held in B.C.

Tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

B.C. resident creates global sport training program

The 20 hour course teaches the science and application of interval training at the university level

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

Most Read