Protecting Access and Inclusion for Service Dog Users

Canine Companions applauds new service dog policies to limit untrained dogs in stores.

A woman in a wheelchair with a service dog walking beside her holding a bagSANTA ROSA, California – Instances of untrained dogs in places of public accommodation has long plagued people with disabilities who rely on task-trained service dogs for independence and access. In fact, 93% of service dog users report such encounters in places pet dogs aren’t permitted.*

These encounters lead to increased discrimination and safety risks. New corporate policies on untrained pets, like a recent policy change from Publix supermarkets† limiting store access to task trained service dogs, can make a difference. Canine Companions, the nonprofit organization that created the concept of service dogs in 1975, has placed over 7,600 service dogs and has teams working in every state. Safe, easy access to public places is critical to the organization and its clients.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) grants people with disabilities the right to access public places accompanied by task trained service dogs as long as the service dog is behaving safely and under the control of the handler. This right is limited to people with disabilities whose dogs are trained to mitigate effects of a disability – not for pet owners or dogs providing emotional support. However, many businesses are hesitant to enforce these laws for fear of legal action. Enforcing policies, like the new Publix policy, is critical to serving people with disabilities equitably.

“Service dogs are not pets,” says Canine Companions Chief Executive Officer Paige Mazzoni. “They have a very important role to play in their handlers’ independence. We applaud Publix for making their service dog policy clear to all customers to protect the rights of people with disabilities who can access their stores thanks to an expertly trained service dog.”

Canine Companions encourages businesses nationwide to follow Publix’s lead to clarify and enforce service dog policies.

“80% of service dog users report that poorly trained dogs have had a negative impact on independence and quality of life,” adds Melinda Sowers, Canine Companions vice president, training and client services. “Service dog teams have experienced physical altercations with untrained dogs, ultimately resulting in removing life-changing service dogs from their jobs permanently.”



* Brozman, W.; Canine Companions. 2022. White Paper – The Impact of Poorly Trained Dogs on Trained Service Dogs.

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