I don’t usually mark September 1 on my calendar. That’s when the Texas Legislature unleashes a new batch for laws each year. We have plenty of laws already.
But I was excited about one new law that went into effect this September 1: House Bill 4164 imposes a $1,000 fine and 30 hours of community service for anybody caught falsely claiming their pet is a trained service dog so they can bring their precious Princess onto planes, into hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.
We’ve all seen this and it’s enough already.
Hot dogs only in supermarkets, please
I especially was hoping this new law would stop people from bringing their pets into supermarkets. That’s my “pets” peeve. I don’t like dogs sniffing around my potential food and worse, turning the frozen food aisle into a Saturday night dog park for singles.
I used to work in a supermarket. It’s hard work. Nobody there is being paid enough to pick up dog poop or vomit. More than anything else, there’s a sign out front, “no animals allowed — except for service animals.”
Do you see that sign, “Mr. Laws Don’t Apply to Me?” That’s the most infuriating part, privileged people who think they don’t have to obey laws they don’t agree with.
To borrow from an early Seinfeld episode, the legislature is good at passing laws, sometimes local authorities aren’t so good at enforcing them.
The new law defines an actual service animal as a “canine that is specially trained or equipped to help a person with a disability.” According to the bill’s author, the law “should help restore the reputation that trained service dogs have earned and limit negative interactions that service dogs experience.”
I’m still seeing non-disabled (best as I can tell) people walk their dogs into my supermarket like it’s perfectly normal, perfectly okay and perfectly legal. They walk their dogs right past security guards, off-duty police and store staff. Unfortunately, it has gotten perfectly normal.
But it’s not okay, not normal, and it’s not legal.
It’s bad enough that I see people fondling peaches and melons in the produce section like it’s the backseat of a limo on prom night.
It’s disgusting that I see dogs scratching themselves in the cereal aisle while I’m looking for my box of Cinnamon Life, the unsung hero of the entire breakfast industry. Although lately, I’m intrigued by new Cocoa Pebbles Crunch’d with Snackable Crunchy Rockstar Shapes. Nutritionally this has to be one step down from Shipley Do-Nuts.
Bill 4164 is a tricky law to enforce, I get that. The law says that security, store staff, or anybody else can’t ask the person bringing their dog into stores about their disability or the qualifications of their dog. A hotel or hospital can’t even ask beforehand if a guest is bringing a service animal with them. Stores can’t stop a person at the door and demand “show me your papers.”
So bottom line, it’s basically an unenforceable law, but thanks for the thoughts and prayers, legislators. Non-disabled people are left to self-obey the law that prohibits them from falsely passing off their pets as service dogs.
Yeah, I know, good luck with that.
A couple of weeks ago, I made a comment under my breath so one of these dog-walking shoppers could hear me. He turned and told me to mind my own business … like I’m the bad guy?
A hard no — from a loving dog dad
I can understand why some restaurants want to allow dogs on their outside patio, it’s their prerogative and it might be good for business. You just don’t get my business. Not after, in the middle of my cheeseburger one afternoon, I watched a customer put his plate on the floor for his dog to lick.
Don’t get me wrong or think I’m sort of anti-pet meanie. I absolutely love dogs. I wrote the homeless pet column in the Houston Chronicle for 20 years and a Pet of the Week column here. I was responsible for thousands of dog adoptions. I’m the Edna Gladney of the pet world.
I’ve had a dog all my life. Me and Sally, my alleged Wheaten Terrier — talk about false advertising — are tight (Editor’s note: Read one of Ken’s greatest pieces — the day he adopted Sally — here.) You know that dilemma, if your house were on fire and you could save only one thing, what would it be? That’s an easy one for me. The answer is Sally. Duh!
As much as I love my dog, I don’t impose her on others. I always walk her on a leash. I don’t take her to restaurants. I figure she could use a little alone time, too.
How do you feel about the new dog ruling? Let Ken know at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.