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Ask Laz: Dogs in grocery stores: Legal or not?

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Federal, state and local laws are clear about whether dogs can go inside supermarkets. But some people have their own ideas.
(Kris Hollad / Brownsville Herald)

Dave recently stopped by a Ralphs supermarket in Marina del Rey. He saw another customer bring a dog inside.

A week earlier, Dave says, he saw a dog inside a Pavilions supermarket. He also saw one in a Walgreens drugstore.

He asks: “Is a dog allowed in grocery stores in Los Angeles or L.A. County?”

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions

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Before I answer that, a mea culpa. Before I became a dog owner about seven months ago, I never would have imagined anyone would bring a hound inside a place where food was being sold or served.

But one day, just to see what would happen, I brought my dog, Teddy, into a Westside Ralphs. We’re not talking a little, fits-in-the-cart pooch either. Teddy, a rescue dog, is a golden retriever-Rottweiler mix. He weighs about 70 pounds.

Incredibly, nobody stopped me. Store workers gave Teddy -- who was very well-behaved -- some inquisitive looks. But nobody said anything. I took that as an indication that, at least at this Ralphs, dogs were cool.

Teddy also has joined me in CVS stores, Target and other businesses where food is sold. It’s never been an issue.

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So what does the law actually have to say about it?

The U.S. Justice Department issued new rules in 2011, saying that service dogs, such as guide dogs for the blind, can go anywhere their person goes, including grocery stores. So-called therapy dogs, on the other hand, do not enjoy such federal protection.

Section 114259.5 of the California Retail Food Code says that “live animals may not be allowed in a food facility.” But it makes exceptions not just for service dogs but for “pets in the common dining areas of restricted food service facilities at times other than during meals.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health says only that “food facility owners and operators may allow pet dogs in the outdoor dining or patio area at their discretion.”

Stir it all up, and the impression you get is that non-service dogs aren’t allowed in grocery stores or any other place that sells food.

So why did Dave see dogs in various stores? And how did I get away with bringing Teddy into so many places?

I have only one answer to that. It’s L.A., dude.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz

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