Therapy dog barred from Abbotsford grocery store

Local 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

Changes coming June 30 to bus services in Abbotsford

Several existing routes are being realigned and one route is being discontinued

Nominations open for the 15th annual Arty Awards in Abbotsford

Awards recognize achievement in the arts in nine categories

Abbotsford council declines to declare climate emergency

Mayor says city is working to reduce emissions, but that procedures preclude immediate action

VIDEO: Unofficial goat yoga world record set in Abbotsford

Maan Farms waiting on verification from Guinness on world record

Vehicle roll-over causes Highway 1 delays

Left eastbound and westbound lanes blocked as crews deal with accident

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Plane veers off runway, into ditch at Langley Airport

Fire, ambulance, and police are on scene

Okanagan RCMP bike patrol rolls up on alleged stolen vehicle from Burnaby

The driver, a 30-year-old Kelowna man, has been held in custody and is facing possible charges of possession of stolen property and obstructing a police officer

Most Read