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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

About one-sixth of students in School District 83 choose to ‘restart’ June 1

Superintendent of schools expects numbers may increase as word of safety protocols spreads

Drugs, machete found in truck with stolen plate driven by Salmon Arm man

Chase RCMP arrest driver and have vehicle towed

Column: Shuswap Emergency Program an important asset for region

Council Report by City of Salmon Arm Councillor Kevin Flynn

Trial of accused in Salmon Arm church shooting expected to be brief

Crown won’t dispute not criminally responsible by way of a mental disorder defence

Okanagan home sales increase over last month, still below 2019 numbers: OMREB

Sales, listings see increase over May’s numbers but dwindle in comparison to 2019

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Princeton RCMP sergeant kills cougar threatening residential neighborhood

An RCMP officer shot and killed a cougar, close to a residential… Continue reading

Pilot project approved: Penticton to allow alcohol in outdoor spaces

For almost two hours, council debated the proposed pilot project, before eventually passing it 4-2

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Top cop calls video of Kelowna Mountie striking suspect ‘concerning’

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

HERGOTT: Can you get money back if COVID-19 disrupts plans?

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

Most Read