See Spot shop
Oh, Fido (or Rex, or Rover, or Spot, Fluffy, Muffin, Steve). Man’s best friend. Catcher of Frisbees, fetcher of sticks. Slobberer. Squirrel chaser. Shopping companion.
Well, sure. Who better to gaze questioningly at a steaming credit card? Who better to assess (and maybe sniff) a bum that may or may not look fat in these pants?
So, into the stores dogs go with, it would seem, increasing frequency. And not just service dogs, and not just into stores with canine policies that say “Come on in!” Lately, it’s not entirely unheard-of to glance up from the shelf of dish soap and see two black, button eyes peeping from a purse, or to realize that it’s not a human panting over the new farm implements.
“I am seeing a little more lately,” said Mike Allen, owner of Toys for the Fun of It in downtown Grand Junction. “We see a lot of dogs in the store, and I don’t mind. We’re a dog-friendly store, and as long as they’re well-behaved and on a leash, they’re welcome.”
However, as people and their beloved canine companions increasingly test the boundaries of where non-service dogs are and aren’t welcome, lines are being drawn.
On April 18, 2011, the Grand Junction City Council approved an ordinance banning people from bringing non-service dogs to downtown events. Those who do can be ticketed. The move, according to council members, was prompted by complaints about dogs running off leash, fighting with other dogs and snapping at or biting people.
But the ordinance is specific to outdoor special events, such as the ANB Bank Farmers Market, which begins Thursday. What about indoors? That’s up to store owners and store policy, and without an official policy, in the dogs often come.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re seeing it more than we used to, but people do bring in their dogs sometimes,” said Ryan Cranston, owner of Ruby Canyon Cycles in Grand Junction. “Our preference would be that you don’t. Generally, it doesn’t cause a problem, but when there’s a free-ranging dog in the store, it can put some customers at a state of unease. And then there’s always the lovely presents that we find left behind.”
It was these “presents” that prompted the managers of Co-op Country Ace Hardware in Fruita to briefly ban all but service dogs from the store.
“Misbehaving dogs were peeing on the bottom aisles of product, and it was ruining so much product that we implemented a policy that only service dogs were allowed in,” said Carrie McFarland, store manager.
However, customers didn’t like the new policy, McFarland said, so managers reversed it last year. And since then, it hasn’t been just dogs roaming the aisles: “We’ve had horses in, little miniature horses, goats, all different kinds of animals.
“We’ve had people carry their little dogs in and put them in a basket, big dogs, all different types. We would hope the dog owner would have it on a leash, just to keep it controlled if there’s any other dogs in here. But we haven’t had any fights, no junk like that.”
She said the number of dogs in the store tends to increase in summer, when people don’t want to leave them in a hot car. And that’s OK, she said, “because we’re a co-op, we’re farm-oriented, you expect to see animals here.”
It’s for that reason that a dog roaming the aisles of U.S. Tractor in Grand Junction isn’t unusual. Store manager Marv Meyers said dogs generally stay in the truck, “but if they’ve got a young pup or an older dog, they come in,” he said, estimating that 60 percent come in off-leash. “In fact, behind the parts counter the guys keep a bag of dog biscuits for them. I guess if they make a mess we’d expect the owner to clean it up, but that hasn’t really been a problem. Most of the dogs mind pretty good.”
The point of contention arises not just when store owners with nebulous policies have to clean up after dogs, but when other shoppers don’t want to shop alongside someone else’s pet.
It’s a tricky topic to discuss without seeming anti-dog, and some people are loath to go on record voicing opposition to non-service dogs in stores. But they have their reasons.
“You don’t go into a store expecting to see a dog,” said a woman shopping in downtown Grand Junction on Tuesday afternoon, who declined to give her name. “Some people may be allergic to dogs or they may be afraid of dogs. They shouldn’t have to worry about it when they’re shopping. It’s kind of rude for a dog owner to think that everybody loves their dog.”
It’s an attitude of thoughtlessness that ruins it for everyone, said Shanna Davis of Grand Junction, whose menagerie includes eight dogs and various foster dogs.
A dedicated dog lover and dog advocate, she doesn’t think owners should take their dogs into every store, bank or wherever else they go.
“As long as the dog is well-behaved and the store doesn’t mind, it’s OK with their policy, that’s fine,” Davis said. “But I know people try to sneak their dog into stores or just take it in, and that’s not right if it’s going to make the other people uncomfortable.”
Beyond affecting the comfort of other customers, taking dogs into stores can have more serious ramifications. The Mesa County Department of Health strictly prohibits non-service dogs from retail food establishments, and having them there is considered a critical violation, said Karen Martsolf, department spokeswoman. That prohibition extends to fenced-in, outdoor dining areas.
Non-service animals, including ones in carriers, also aren’t allowed in grocery stores, Martsolf said.
Scott Voorhis, owner of Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli in Montrose, said he must be scrupulous about following Health Department regulations. The deli does have an outdoor seating area that isn’t fenced-in, and that’s where dog owners often post their dogs, he said.
“We have cups for them to drink out of, and you can see them from inside,” he said. “But the Health Department doesn’t allow non-working dogs and that has to be our policy.”
But when it’s not a food establishment and there’s no official policy, sometimes the pitter-pat of furry paws follows a customer. Davis said she hopes dog owners will use their best judgment, and Karen Hildebrandt, owner of Unique Expressions in Grand Junction, said that’s been her experience.
“Very occasionally someone will come in holding a small dog, and I tell them they can let the dog be with them in the store,” she said. “But it’s very, very rare, and it may be that with my store you have more arts and things that are breakable, and people are sensitive to that.”
Plus, Davis said, there are enough stores where dogs are allowed — Home Depot in Grand Junction and Montrose, Lowe’s in Grand Junction, Murdoch’s in Clifton, PetCo, Pet Smart and many others all allow dogs on leashes — that dog owners shouldn’t feel guilty and dogs shouldn’t feel neglected if they don’t mosey through every door.
“The only ones I take into stores are ones that are very well-behaved and walk well on a leash,” Davis said. “And even then, it’s usually just if I’m buying a collar and making sure it fits. When I’m in stores with them, I’ve made sure they’re welcome there, I’m making sure they’re not bothering anybody, they’re not peeing on anything. It’s OK if you’re responsible.”