A LETTER TO ALL THE RANDOM STRANGERS WHO TRY TO GAIN MY ASSISTANCE DOG’S ATTENTION IN THE SUPERMARKET
Author: Elmiri Fox
STOP! Think, why is there a dog in the supermarket? Dogs don’t belong in supermarkets. In fact, it is store policy for all major supermarkets that dogs are not allowed in Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys’, Aldi. Think, maybe this dog is special and is there for a reason. Most, if not all grocery stores are NOT pet friendly due to health and safety requirements. Disabled people who handle task trained Assistance Dogs have the right to bring their Assistance Dogs, legally recognised as an Auxiliary Aid, into grocery stores with them. This right is protected by the Equality Act 2010.
STOP! Understand that the dog, no matter how beautiful, unusual, cute, big, small, weird, furry…. that dog is NOT there for you! It’s there to assist it’s disabled handler. It has an important job to do and entertaining you is not part of that job.
STOP! Listen to handler as they ask you to refrain from interfering with their Assistance Dog. “Sorry, he’s working”, “please don’t distract her, thank you”, are not rude remarks. Yes, if the handler says “Oi, piss off!” or similar, then that is rude and uncalled for. But bear in mind, you are likely not the first person that week, day or hour that has tried to engage with their dog. Bear in mind that in fact, YOU, a random stranger loudly approaching said Assistance Dog, bending down to talk to him or her, ignoring the PERSON holding the leash, are the one who is being rude.
STOP! Assistance Dogs are not public property, they belong to someone and that person is not you. Therefore when the OWNER says don’t touch my dog, you should listen and respect their wishes. You are not entitled to touch it or talk to it, just because it is there. Assistance Dogs are working, and your feelings having absolutely nothing to do with it. Admire from afar, but do not touch, make kissing noises, stare, or make a giant scene about how there is a dog present.
Yes, we know dogs are cute. Well we know most of them are. But if this same dog was walking down the street in a dog friendly environment YOU would not be paying this much attention to it.
Notes to take away:
- Don’t pet
- Don’t touch
- Don’t stare
- Don’t make kissing noises or try to call it to you
- Don’t point
- Don’t take photos
- Don’t follow them
- Don’t yell to everyone about how there is a dog
Assistance Dog handlers want to be treated like anyone else. You probably remember how to behave around people in wheelchairs was the big thing! How you would tell children it’s rude to stare or point just because they’re different to themselves. Maybe you remember being told these things as a child yourself.
We, Assistance Dog handlers, would like you to do this again. Tell your friends, family, children, parents, siblings, work colleagues, everyone!
Tell them that it’s rude to stare, take photos, point, or follow them around, just because they’re different. Education is key.
Thank you for reading this and thank you to everyone out there who IS polite and respectful of Assistance Dogs and their handlers. We appreciate it. We appreciate you.