October 20, 2014
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Love me? Then love my dog

On July 16, Cranston Police were called to the Wal-Mart at 1776 Plainfield Pike for a man screaming and yelling threats at people. Police arrived to find the man had left but witnesses told police he was upset because his dog had died in his car while he was shopping. Later, Cranston was notified by Johnston Police that a man who brought his dead pet to the veterinary clinic inside the PetSmart store told witnesses he was going back to the Wal-Mart store to “shoot the place up” because he blamed their no pets policy for the death of his 5-year-old miniature Doberman Pinscher. The owner was arrested and charged with animal cruelty after surveillance video revealed he was in the store for 43 minutes, so threatening to shoot up Wal-Mart because of their pet policy was the second dreadful idea that man had that day.

Frankly, we don’t see any malevolent intent in Wal-Mart’s “no pets” and certainly don’t think it justifies shooting up the place, but a little bit of flexibility on the part of the store could have prevented this sad outcome. Under normal circumstances, a no pet policy makes sense. No merchant wants to get in the middle of a legal action stemming from animal misbehavior on his or her premises. A dog that is perfectly behaved under most circumstances could get hyper-stimulated in a busy department store, especially with children around. For instance, what animal wouldn’t be stressed by the wailing of toddlers who choose that place and that time to tell the world of the extreme cruelties being visited upon them by thoughtless parents who do not believe that their every whim should be instantly satisfied? It’s hard enough for human grownups like us to suppress our infanticidal impulses under those conditions.

But we digress.

For most adults, knowing the consequences of leaving an animal (or a child) in an overheated car while they go shopping are enough to deter them from doing it. But people are often pressed for time and actually believe they will return to their vehicles in time to avoid harm to their beloved pets. A number of things can come up that will keep you in a store much longer than intended, like being unlucky enough to get into the checkout line in front of someone who has a coupon for every blessed thing in their overflowing shopping cart.

But we digress again.

Our point is that there are always alternatives to leaving a pet or child in a car. Leaving them at home comes to mind; or getting someone to stay in the car with the air conditioning on; or take a chance by leaving the car running with the air conditioner on. Many modern cars can be locked from the outside while they are running and not too many people have the confidence to get into a car with a strange dog of any breed.

What would happen if local department stores gave their managers discretion to allow pets into the store under extreme weather conditions? Wal-Mart stores usually have a large garden section that could contain leashed dogs. Stop & Shop has garden shops that are always kept optimally cooled.

PetSmart stores nationwide always allow pets and, according to one clerk who spoke off the record, the policy has never bothered employees and rarely bothers customers. They assume their patrons are smart enough to keep cats and dogs apart, and hamster and bird owners usually know what to do when cats and dogs are around.

Not every store could allow pets inside, and public health concerns prevent most restaurants from allowing pets, but big box stores like Wal-Mart, Kmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot could accommodate a lot of flexibility with pets. What’s more, people who are smart enough to leave their pets at home in hot weather would be inclined to think that a heat wave might be a good time to get the dog out of the house and do some shopping at the same time.

The bottom line for pets in stores is, well, the bottom line.


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