I love my dog. His name is Oakley, and he’s adorable. I spoil him. My kids do too. My husband tolerates him. All in all, he’s part of the family. That said, I don’t take him shopping with us or to community events, and I would never take him on an airplane in the cabin. Why? It’s not fair to others, and not everyone loves my pet as much as I do. In fact, some people are terribly allergic to pets, and frankly, sometimes pets are not on their best behavior in public situations. That can be true for anyone’s pet.
Travel: Gone to the Dogs
Let’s explore this discussion a bit further and the reason why I’m bringing it up. My husband recently returned from a trip to Arizona. On the flight home, he encountered five people in the airport with dogs. Fortunately, all were on leashes, but they were in the airport along with all the other passengers, which means, quite possibly, they were on flights in cramped cabins with all the other passengers too. Once in the terminal, beloved Fidos were taken to the eateries–same as the humans. My husband snapped this picture while he was eating at McDonald’s.
In the second picture you’ll see another dog walking his owner ahead of my husband. As you can see, he’s a big dog. Perhaps someone besides my husband wondered why the dog was traveling with all the humans. Maybe some people thought it was neat. Maybe others were indifferent. But maybe, just maybe, some people, especially little travelers, were afraid of the BIG dog. In fact, some BIG travelers are afraid of BIG dogs. I was once bitten by a German Shepherd, quite severely. So if I were traveling and had to sit next to this strange, big dog, I’d ask for another seat.
While I could obviously change seats or scoot away, what about those who have allergies? I have family members with asthma who begin coughing and fighting for air within moments of being exposed to pet dander. What should they do if they’re confined to an airplane with enclosed dander-enhanced air circulation? Puff away on their medication and hope they don’t stop breathing? That doesn’t seem right.
Let’s go back to what happens in between flights when Fido or Fluffy has to you-know-what. Where does that happen? Believe it or not, some airports provide accommodations (see below). But for most pets, it’s any outside bush or patch of dirt that fellow travelers walk by or on. Or it’s inside the airport. I wish I could find the photo, but last year my husband took another picture of a gentleman leading his dog away in the terminal, ignoring the three poop piles that Fido was leaving behind on the shiny, waxed airport floor. Unbelievable!
Possible Exceptions and Solutions
So what might be some exceptions and solutions? I aired my grievances on this topic on social media. Many friends chimed in to express their frustrations too. One friend, however, offered a different perspective. She has moved internationally before and has flown the family cat with them in a container. She paid to have the cat with them in the cabin so it wouldn’t be in cargo for 13 hours. I can actually sympathize with this situation. She has kids who are very fond of their pet. And moving to a foreign country would be stressful. Without going into details, I know that leaving a pet behind with a new owner wouldn’t have been an option for them. So that cat needed to come with. I know that some might suggest the cat could have been sedated and left in cargo just fine. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do think that airports should provide a service for people who must take animals with them because they are moving or have an extended stay, perhaps a month or longer. There should be a place in every terminal where owners stay with their pet. And there should be a better way to fly with animals than allowing them in the cabin.
And what about service animals? I have absolutely no concern about a well-trained, certified service animal that is wearing a vest to indicate its role. I do, however, know that sometimes this accommodation is abused. Many people are comforted by their animals and rely on them for emotional support. But there’s very little screening, other than a therapist’s note, that qualifies a pet for this particular service role. This doesn’t seem right, especially when other service animals are required to undergo intense training, and their owners literally need them to function well. Unless an animal has been specifically trained and identified as a service animal, it should stay home, in my opinion. Love them all you want there, but don’t bring them to public places.
What about Shopping or Public Events?
Again, service animals should be permitted. But when I’m at the grocery store, I don’t want to see another customer sneak their dog inside a large purse. Yes, I have seen this–in the produce aisle. It’s wrong, and it’s not hygienic. Another person on my social media post regarding this topic says she’s seen a dog brought into a high-end jewlery store. Another friend chimed in that when she purchases fabric, she now asks store employees to wipe down the counter before cutting her pieces. She’s an avid seamstress and figured out that pet dander on the fabric she was purchasing and bringing home was causing her husband’s allergies to act up. Yes, pet owners were setting their pets and/or pet containers on the fabric counter while making their purchases. She saw this and figured out the problem.
I think the bring-your-pet shopping thing all started years ago when Home Depot began allowing customers to bring in Fido. Then the competition, Lowe’s, looked the other way in a “permit-but-don’t-promote” manner in order to remain customer friendly. Things just took off from there. The floodgates opened. Years later, when none of us would have considered it before, shoppers are sneaking their pets into all sorts of places. In my opinion, pets belong only in pet stores and pet-friendly businesses that advertise as such. I applaud businesses who offer this service to pet owners, and I applaud businesses who don’t allow pets and enforce the rule when someone tries to be the exception.
One of the most bizzarre cases I’ve witnessed was several years ago in Boise, Idaho, at an Art in the Park event. We were having a nice time, but it was busy–wall-to-wall people. In fact, I was lamenting that several people had brought their dogs. There were so many people, lots of children, and the weather was hot. Next thing I knew, a man walked right next to me, holding a HUGE boa constrictor. It was wrapped all around his shoulders. I stared. Everyone stared. Then I very quickly moved myself and my kids away–because I’m TERRIFIED of snakes–especially very big ones. I noticed that event security guards were eyeing the guy. But nobody said anything. I’m sure, if asked, the man would have argued that others had brought their pets. And he’s right. Dogs were everywhere. But what if someone had brought their pet mouse, rat, bunny or bird? I’m sure the snake would have been thrilled–and possibly out of control.
Be a Considerate Pet Owner
Since when have some people decided that animals are more important than humans? Since when have we decided it’s ok to discomfort or, in some cases, endanger others around us?
Take your dog to the park or go on a hike. Keep him on a leash and away from other people. If someone wants to pet your dog, they’ll approach you and ask for permission to do so. We often experience this with our dog. He loves kids, and they love him. But he is crazy stupid around other dogs. So I don’t let him near them. Assume YOUR pet may be harmful to others. You may not think so, but it can happen. Use caution. Overall, people expect to see dogs outside. Just be responsible, and take your pet where they’re safe and where you can both have fun.
I appreciate responsible pet owners who are considerate of all us humans. They pick up after their poopy pets. They control them on a leash. They leave them home or in the vehicle when it’s safe to do so. They board their pets or hire pet sitters when they travel. Thank you to everyone who understands that kindness to humans is important too. I would never want to knowingly allow my pet to harm another person. Allergies are serious business. Pet bites are serious business. Pet waste not properly disposed of is serious business and causes health concerns.
Twenty years ago, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Country dogs worked on farms. City dogs went on walks. That’s about it. Think about it. It’s not progressive to force your love for your pet on others. And they are NOT humans. You may feel like they are your best friend, but people count too. Remember, it is kind and considerate to consider others’ needs before your own. Ask yourself what’s best for the community, and I think you’ll quickly see that’s what’s best overall.
What’s your opinion on this issue? All respectful opinions will be shared.