Is America Going to the Dogs?

Barb Wire

I highly recommend Jonathan Last’s book, What to Expect When No One is Expecting as a great study of societal reaction to demographic decline the world over, including the topic of pets!

Last indicates that in 1994 Americans spent $17 billion on pets; by 2008 that number had risen to $43 billion!  Pets now have medical plans, auto insurance, and some people are leaving their estates to their pets.  There was even a bill in Congress that would have afforded pet owners a tax break that exceeded the tax break for children!  Spending on pets has risen dramatically because, in all honesty, pets are replacing children as members of the family with pets now outnumbering children in America by more than four to one.

Veteran reporter Katy Grimes came on the radio show to report on a bill in Sacramento, AB1965, that will make it legal for restaurants to officially open their outdoor dining areas to dogs, unless local ordinances prohibit otherwise.  Currently, it is not legal to have a dog in a restaurant area, even an outdoor dining area, unless the dog is a service dog.

One of the more disturbing aspects of this particular piece of legislation has to do with two disparate provisions that seemingly contradict one another.  One provision indicates that restaurant employees are prohibited from having direct contact with pet dogs while on duty while another mandates that restaurant employees shall immediately clean and sanitize all areas affected by any “deposits” left by the dog.  Someday, I imagine the wait staff in restaurants will be carrying pooper-scoopers while serving courses?  Am I the only person who has a problem with this?  The irony here is that more and more restaurants are becoming pet friendly while at the same time they are closing their facilities to children!

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The latest trend is to bring dogs into grocery stores, which as far as I know, isn’t legal!  With the notable exception for service dogs, why should ordinary pet owners be allowed to violate common sense standards of decency, courtesy, and safety as it affects our food supply?

Finally, people are now bringing their dogs in the main cabin of airplanes instead of placing them in a cargo hold.  This has already become a problem as an airplane here in the United States was forced to make an emergency landing due to a doggy accident and the resulting stench that could not be abated!

Personally, I love dogs, and we do treat our dogs as part of our family per se.  However, I don’t eat with them or sleep with them.  Many people do and that is certainly their prerogative in their home.  However, in public places, I believe others have a right to object to these practices due to concerns having to do with allergies and sanitation.  How can we rationalize forcing people with allergies into a confined space with pets?  Is this any different than forcing people to breathe in second-hand smoke?

First Published in the Santa Barbara News Press

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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