Publix warns customers against bringing their pets and emotional support animals

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Publix is a place for Pub Subs, produce and buy one-get one prices. Pets? Not so much.
Customers are starting to notice large signs placed at the front of Publix grocery stores throughout Florida, reminding shoppers that only service animals are allowed in the store — not personal pets, or emotional support animals.
“Under federal law, service animals are dogs or miniature horses trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities,” the sign reads. “Non-service animals are not allowed in grocery stores by the FDA. Dogs, pets, and other animals whose sole function is to provide comfort, companionship, or emotional support do not qualify as service animals and are not permitted in Publix, even with a doctor’s note.”
The company’s policy on service animals has existed for years. It’s not clear what led Publix to roll out the new in-store signs, and a spokesperson for the company’s South Florida region could not be reached for comment Saturday., Aug. 19, 2023.
Customers agree Publix’s policy is a smart safety precaution
Jeff, a regular at the West Palm Beach Publix on Southern Boulevard, converses with another customer while his dog keeps a watchful eye on passersby. He said the dog, Dum Dum, is a service animal that helps him cope with his ongoing cancer battle and his past experiences in the military.
A regular at the Publix on Southern Boulevard, who identified himself only as Jeff, said he relies on a service dog to cope with his ongoing cancer battle and his past experiences in the military. He said the store policy is a smart safety precaution.
“A lot of other dogs aren’t friendly,” he said. “You don’t want mean dogs in there, because they might get a scent on somebody and bite them.”
Another man, who identified himself only as Mark, shopped directly next to the Southern Boulevard Publix on Saturday morning, at the neighboring Pet Supermarket. He said the new signs are a valuable reminder that animals and grocery stores don’t mix.
“I like that there’s no pets,” he said. “Pet shed gets into things. That’s stuff that I don’t want around my food. And when they put them into the cart, you’ve got that dog — excuse my French — wiping its butt inside the shopping cart.”
Dum Dum accompanies her owner during a shopping trip at the West Palm Beach Publix on Southern Boulevard.
It seems Publix would agree. The company policy says that all animals, including service dogs, are “prohibited from being carried in a Publix shopping cart (even on a mat) or in Publix wheelchair basket attachments.”
And all animals, the policy continues, can be removed if they pose a risk to other shoppers.
“We also ask that service animals that are out of control, pose a threat to health or safety, or are not housebroken be removed from the premises,” the policy reads. “The individual may continue to shop at the store without the animal. Publix will gladly provide personal shopping assistance to such an individual upon request.”
Publix has recently placed prominent signage reminding customers of their policy that no pets are allowed in the store except for service animals. This sign is in the front of the store in Palm Beach.
The new signs also remind shoppers that Florida law prohibits people from misrepresenting their pets as service animals. The crime is a second-degree misdemeanor, and offenders are required to perform 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities.
“Misrepresenting your pet as a service animal negatively impacts the quality of life and independence for service animal users,” the Publix sign states.
The policy seems to be popular among many Publix customers, but such rules can be hard to enforce, said Josephine Grace, the owner of Dog Training Elite in Palm Beach County.
That’s because some dogs are well-behaved and their handlers have control over them, but they aren’t necessarily service animals, which are trained to carry out specific tasks for their owners.
The Publix Super Market at Southdale Shopping Center in West Palm Beach. Publix has recently placed prominent signage reminding customers of their policy that no pets are allowed in the store except for service animals.
It can also be hard to identify service dogs because they come in all sizes and breeds, and they help with disabilities both seen and unseen, Grace said, giving the example of a dog that’s trained to help with anxiety attacks among people with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The handler doesn’t have to provide documentation that their service animal is trained, and staff can’t ask about “the nature or extent of an individual’s disability,” according to state law.
However, the law goes on to say that “a public accommodation may ask if an animal is a service animal required because of a disability and what work or tasks the animal has been trained to perform.”
Giuseppe Sabella is a community reporter for The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at gsabella@pbpost.com. Help support our journalism and subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Publix stores enforcing only service dogs allowed, no-pet signs appear

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