Wondering if you could enter Walmart with your dog?
You’re in luck – this article will answer your question.
It will also equip you with knowledge about:
- Walmart’s dog policy.
- 3 real-life experiences from service dog owners and their pets’ roles.
- Whether pets, emotional support dogs and service dogs can enter the store.
- And more…
Table of contents
- Are dogs allowed in Walmart?
- Are little dogs allowed in Walmart?
- Are ESA dogs and service dogs allowed in Walmart?
- Are dogs allowed in Walmart Canada?
- Walmart dog policy
- Service animals according to ADA
- Miniature horses as service animals
- Why service dogs only and not pets?
- Service dogs in action
- Why pets are not allowed in Walmart
- Why emotional support dogs are not allowed
- Why you see pets in Walmart stores
- People abusing the system
Are dogs allowed in Walmart?
Walmart does not allow dogs that are not service dogs into their stores. This is because the store sells food items. Pets are not allowed due to health regulations and contamination risks. However, the policy is not strictly enforced in all stores. Pet-friendly stores welcome all pets.
Are little dogs allowed in Walmart?
Walmart allows little dogs only if they are service dogs. The store recognizes the role that service dogs play to assist a disabled person. But if the little dogs are ESA or companion dogs, Walmart will not allow them in the store.
Are ESA dogs and service dogs allowed in Walmart?
Walmart allows service dogs into their stores but not ESA dogs. Walmart stands by ADA’s definition of a service dog, which performs a specific task to assist a disabled person. By this definition, an ESA is not a service dog. Thus, they are not allowed in Walmart.
Are dogs allowed in Walmart Canada?
Dogs that are not service dogs are not allowed in Walmart Canada. The company strictly follows this policy across its stores. Service dogs have to be registered and certified. They must also wear a specific red vest.
Walmart dog policy
Here’s what you need to know about Walmart’s take on dog policy:
‘Walmart welcomes service animals as defined by the ADA in our stores, and we recognize the important role they play in many of our customers’ lives. We do not allow pets in our stores.’
Service animals according to ADA
Here’s the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition of a service animal:
A dog trained to perform a specific task for a person with a disability. What the dog does must be directly related to that person’s disability.
Here are just some of the tasks that a service animal does:
- Assist a person with mobility issues.
- Keep a child with autism from wandering away.
- Pick up items for a person who uses a wheelchair.
- Remind the person to take prescribed medications.
- Alert a deaf person or person with hearing problems.
- Guide a blind person to navigate places and avoid obstacles.
- Alert a diabetic person when his blood sugar reaches dangerous levels.
- Detect the onset of a seizure and help the owner to be safe during an episode.
Aside from doing specific tasks, a service dog must be under the control of its owner. In addition, the service dog must behave.
ADA set no restrictions as to the breed of a service dog.
Note: ADA considers service animals as working animals. They are not pets.
Did you know that not only dogs are considered as service animals?
But there’s another animal that can serve as a service animal. Can you guess what it is?
Give up now?
It’s miniature horses!
Miniature horses as service animals
In rare circumstances, a miniature horse can be a service animal. And ADA has a special regulation for this.
A miniature horse must be 24-34 inches (61-86cm) in height and 70-100 pounds (32-45 kilograms).
There are 4 factors to help establishments decide whether they can accommodate a miniature horse.
- It must be housebroken.
- It must be under the owner’s control.
- The establishment can accommodate its size and weight.
- The service animal does not compromise safety requirements for that establishment to operate.
Here’s Larry Mark Guthrie with his miniature horses as service animals:
Guthrie has a nerve problem that makes him shake uncontrollably. His horses assist him if he has difficulty walking. They stabilize him when walking.
A store cannot turn away a miniature horse as a service animal and its owner. Especially if the store can accommodate the animal.
Otherwise, the store’s going to be in big trouble.
Why service dogs only and not pets?
Service dogs have a special, important purpose. And that is to help people with disabilities.
This is so that these people can somewhat live independently.
And since dogs aid people with a disability, they have to undergo special training.
Both service and non-service dogs can learn ‘sit’ or ‘heel.’
But service dogs need to learn special commands.
- Dogs assisting diabetic people are trained to detect changes in blood sugar. And they need to learn when to ‘tell’ their owner.
- A German Shepherd as a seeing eye dog has to learn how to navigate roads and streets. They have to learn commands such as ‘left’ or ‘right.’
In addition, service dogs are trained not to pee or poop inside establishments. As they need to be well behaved, they are trained to remain calm under stress.
Non-service dogs, on the other hand, do not receive these special training.
Service dogs in action
The owners of some service dogs are generous enough to share about their experiences on a forum. Read on to know about Milo, Storm and Vixen.
In some ways, service dogs are like working humans.
Like a doctor. A doctor never stops learning or studying new things.
That’s the same with service dogs. Their training is continuous.
If you’ll see in this video, service dog Annie warns her owner of an oncoming seizure. The second part of the video shows Annie and owner doing seizure response training:
It’s the same that service dog Milo does. Milo is 5 years old and is a service dog to an owner who has a seizure.
This dog’s primary job is to alert his owner 10 minutes before a seizure hits. This is to prevent her from falling or hitting her head.
When the owner says ‘Mama,’ Milo gets the owner’s mother or anyone for help.
Milo does not wear a sign on his vest that he’s a service dog. But Milo knows what it means when he’s wearing a vest or not.
When Milo is working, he knows to ignore the people around him. His focus is on his owner.
But sometimes, the owner or her mother allows Milo to go off duty for a while
These are for the times when people ask to pet him.
The owner would touch the hand of a person and make a kiss sound. This signals Milo that it’s okay to be petted by that person alone.
If there are other people, Milo will ignore them. Unless their hand is touched by the owner and a kiss sound is made.
Milo also knows to ignore anyone who rushes at him to pet him. This is sometimes difficult for Milo because he loves people.
Sometimes, the owner’s mom takes Milo out for training. Milo always knows how and when to alert his owner of a seizure.
But sometimes he forgets being polite. So the mother takes him out to train him how to be polite.
Storm does not wear a sign that says ‘Do not pet.’ But she wears a Gentle Leader.
A Gentle Leader is a head collar that helps the owner control the dog. For some people, it may look like a muzzle.
That’s the case with Storm. Other people quickly judge she’s a dangerous dog just because she’s wearing a head collar.
Storm’s owner doesn’t like when people ask to pet the dog. People see that the dog is wearing a work vest. But they still ask to pet her.
Sometimes the owner has to explain to kids that Storm is working and must not be distracted. But she tells them that they can ask again if they see Storm without the work vest.
The owner has experienced being bothered by other people while Storm is on duty. Some people are polite about being turned down for their request to pet the dog.
But some are just persistent.
For Vixen, she doesn’t use a ‘Do not pet’ sign. Her owner says that when Vixen wears a vest, people already know she’s working.
Besides, Vixen already looks intimidating. If she wears the sign, people might think the dog is dangerous.
The owner suffers from PTSD, hence the use of a service animal.
She says that she’s willing to tell people why petting Vixen isn’t allowed when the dog is working.
Or she would immediately leave if anyone tries to pet Vixen without asking first.
The owner also shares that Vixen has a special command to signal a brief break from work. The command is ‘social.’
It means Vixen is off duty for a while and she can enjoy people’s attention.
Service dogs are not on duty all the time.
Just like this pooch, Harlow, having a fun day swimming at the beach.
At the end of the day, when their vest comes off, they are just normal dogs.
Why pets are not allowed in Walmart
Unlike Home Depot and Lowe’s, Walmart sells food.
Thus, Walmart does not allow pets due to health and contamination risks.
Depending on where you are in the USA, each state has food codes to follow. For instance, in Nevada.
Only service animals and sentry dogs are allowed in food establishments. Therapy and comfort animals are prohibited from entering these places.
In addition, food handlers are prohibited from handling pets when they are on duty. This is to prevent contamination.
The same rules apply in Washington. Food employees are not to handle service animals, patrol dogs or pets.
Here are some health-related reasons why pets are not allowed:
- Some dogs have parasites.
- Some people are afraid of dogs.
- Not all owners can control their pets.
- Dogs can contaminate food in the store.
- Some customers have allergies to dog hair.
- Sometimes even a well behaved dog could pee or poop on the floor.
Why emotional support dogs are not allowed
Until now, there are people who are still confused about emotional support dogs.
Some think they are equivalent to service animals. Others know the difference and still insist that they must be allowed in stores like Walmart.
Here’s the truth, once and for all:
ADA does not recognize emotional support animals (ESA) as service animals. An ESA does not perform a specific task to assist a person with a disability.
Thus, they are not service animals.
What an ESA does is they comfort their owners with their presence.
In some places, the local government may have laws that allow people to bring their ESA to public places.
ADA also clarifies the role a dog does when an owner has an anxiety attack.
If the dog senses an oncoming anxiety attack and does a specific task to minimize its impact, it’s considered a service dog.
But if the dog’s presence comforts the owner, it’s not a service animal.
Why you see pets in Walmart stores
Now that it’s clear pets are not allowed in Walmart stores, why do you still see some?
#1: The management doesn’t want to challenge a pet
A former department manager at Walmart shares on a forum why this is so.
Despite the dog policy signs outside the store, no employee will challenge a pet.
That’s because they are not trained how to do it. They are afraid of litigation from affronted pet owners.
#2: Per manager policy
In many Walmart stores, the ‘manager’s policy’ abounds.
If the store manager is pet-friendly, then the store welcomes pets. Sometimes the manager doesn’t want any trouble with customers and their pets.
But there are store managers who strictly follow the dog policy. Thus, only service animals can enter the store.
#3: Not everyone’s business to ask
A customer shares on another forum that it’s not everyone’s business.
Only the manager or the door greeters can ask a customer if the dog is a service animal.
So if you see an animal in the store, just ignore them, the customer advised. Unless you are the manager or the door greeter.
#4: No trouble
Another reason why pets are allowed is because they are generally well behaved.
A former employee observed how pets were placed in carriers or shopping carts.
In addition, there were no accidents in the 6 months since the store opened.
#5: Walmart’s shortcomings
A former employee shares that any employee won’t confront customers with pets.
Particularly if they are only minimum wage earners.
The employee adds that Walmart is not willing to train employees about ADA.
One customer observed that this led to unpleasant situations involving pets and legitimate service dogs in the past.
This could easily ruin service animals’ reputation.
People abusing the system
In 2019, Walmart put up new signs across their stores regarding their dog policy.
The sign read:
‘Service animals welcome. No pets.’
There were no changes in the policy. It was just to remind all customers who are abusing the system.
This was due to cases where customers tried to pass off their pet as service animals.
However, the store could also evict real service animals that display bad behavior. The store doesn’t want to compromise the health and safety of everyone.
So in what ways have people abused the system?
#1: Fake documents and licenses
A former employee at Walmart shares what he knows on Quora.
Apparently, customers search online for businesses providing fake certifications for service animals.
The customer has to pay a fee and would receive a license for their pet.
The employee emphasizes that they don’t allow a dog just because they’re wearing a special vest. Vests and harnesses could easily be purchased from pet stores.
#2: Not following rules
Some customers just don’t care.
Or at least that’s what two former Walmart employees observe.
One of them shares that there’s a sign in front of the store prohibiting dogs in carts. But too many customers do not follow.
There’s a reason why food codes disallow service animals in shopping carts. It’s not sanitary because the carts are also used for grocery.
#3: Irresponsible pet owners
Anyone would be furious to find dog poop and pee on the floor. With both the dog and the owner not in sight.
This is what many employees have complained about regarding dogs. Some pet owners are simply irresponsible enough to not clean up after their pets.
A former employee shares that this was what he experienced one day. He recalls seeing a dog in one aisle.
He left for a while and when he got back, the dog was no longer there. But there was poop on the floor.
One employee says customers like this are entitled. They expect employees to pick up poop and clean the area.
Another person observes a 12-week-old puppy claimed to be a service dog.
Yet the puppy was making a mess on the floor and chewing on the leash.
#4: ESA passed off as service animal
Some customers insist on taking their ESA with them to Walmart.
What do they do when told about the store’s dog policy? They’d pass their pets off as service animals.
They could do this when their ESA is well behaved. Just dress them with a service animal vest and voila! An instant service dog.
And because establishments stay away from lawsuits, no one would challenge the dog.
#5: ‘Service animals’ that misbehave
Customers saying their dogs are service animals are easily caught.
Some former employees have recounted how one ‘service dog’ barked and barked. It was obvious the dog had social anxiety.
While many employees didn’t mind the animals, they are furious about the owners. It’s because it’s not always a good idea to bring pets to stores.
Especially if a dog is not comfortable in busy places. Or it’s too hot or too cold outside.
However, some employees say that they’d rather have the dogs inside the store than alone in the car. Some irresponsible pet owners could easily leave their pets in hot or cold cars.
And you know it could be dangerous for the dog to be locked inside.