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Pet etiquette 101, where to take your pet

By AL SWANSON, United Press International   |   Oct. 9, 2011 at 4:30 AM   |   Comments

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For the majority of pet owners there's no place more pet-friendly that the local public park even though communities with leash laws frown on letting dogs run loose.

In recent years, companion animals have been welcomed at outdoor cafes and inside some stores, but for most places -- with the exception of France and Quebec -- it's still "No Dogs Allowed."

The Oregon agriculture department last week reminded store owners and managers in the city of Eugene people shopping with their pets in tow present a health hazard.

State laws bar pets from any food establishment -- groceries to restaurants -- and animals in stores spark the most complaints related to food safety received by the department, KMTR, Eugene, Ore., reported, the most egregious being about pet owners who leave behind urine or feces on the floor.

"Ask them if it's a service animal or not and they explain to me that maybe it's a therapy animal or one that provides emotional support, and I'll ask them to remove the animal … and as you can imagine it can create quite a scene. It's a very difficult situation for myself and employees," Fred Meyer grocery store director Bob Winner told the television station, adding he had seen people shopping with everything from birds to iguanas in his store.

Since March, the U.S. Department of Justice has legally defined service animals as only dogs that directly help with a person's disability but sometimes it's hard to know where to draw the line. Is a dog who helps fulfill emotional needs a service animal?

Christian McCurdy, who suffers from type 1 diabetes, relies on her specially trained female boxer, Jinx, to alert her that she is becoming hypoglycemic -- a drop in blood sugar that could lead to seizures or a diabetic coma. The animal is a diabetic alert dog, a type of canine helper of which most people have never even heard, that can cost as much as $20,000.

McCurdy, 29, a middle-school science teacher in Morton, Miss., was denied permission by the Scott County School District Board to bring the dog to work, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger said. But the dog has been allowed to accompany her to restaurants and school in another district where her husband works.

"Jinx is a service dog, the same as a seeing-eye dog. She does what my body can't do any more," McCurdy told USA Today. "I have a hard time feeling my blood sugar dropping." McCurdy has sought mediation through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Diabetic alert dogs can detect a buildup of acid in the stomach that produces a fruity odor in a diabetic. In March 2008, the American Diabetes Association magazine, Diabetes Forecast, said the dogs are correct 90 percent of the time.

Business owners in Oregon told KMTR people shopping with animals often just lie, knowing managers can't demand their medical records or proof an animal is a genuine service animal.

"Those laws are put into place to protect people with disabilities, and you know what we'd really like is too see those people just (not) bringing into (stores) pets if they could leave the pets at home. Just out of respect for the store and the sanitation issues, that would be great," Susan Kendrick, a food service specialist for the Oregon Department of Agriculture told KMTR.

In Watertown, N.Y., the city council is debating a proposal to draft an ordinance that would bar dogs from all outdoor city events, including the farmers market.

"The general overwhelming consensus is that as much as we love our pets and we like to consider them a part of our family there's just certain venues that are not appropriate to take them," Councilwoman Roxanne Burns told Newszjunky.com.

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A Dogtown political lobby

Pet lovers in San Francisco have organized Dog PAC (political action committee) to promote the interests of pets and fight to allow dogs to run off-leash in restricted areas of parks.

They may be on to something.

Claire McLean, founder and director of the Presidential Pet Museum in Annapolis, Md., says political parties and candidates cannot afford to alienate pet owners, especially in an election year. She says 66 percent of pet owners -- 40 percent have dogs and 43 percent have cats -- would not vote for a presidential candidate who was perceived to dislike animals.

"Many believe it was Herbert Hoover's German Shepherd King Tut who sealed the president's landslide win in 1928 -- Hoover sent autographed images of himself and King Tut to thousands of voters," she said.

Franklin Roosevelt's Scottish Terrier, Fala, was so popular he was assigned a press secretary and when Richard Nixon was accused of using campaign contributions for personal use, Nixon saved his nomination as vice president by saying in a speech that the only gift he had bought for personal use was a black and white Cocker Spaniel named Checkers for his daughters.

The famous "Checkers speech" saved his political career.

"Our presidents show goodness of heart during their private and personal moments with the animals with which they have bonded," McLean said.

The political activism of dog owners in San Francisco is not unusual. There are an estimated 100,000 dogs in the city by the bay, more than the number of children.

"Nothing is unusual in terms of political activism here in San Francisco," mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera told KGO-TV. "We have a lot of dog owners here in San Francisco and they are very passionate, and the issues that come up are serious."

Mayoral candidate Joanna Rees, who owns two dogs, recently held a campaign event for dog owners called "Bark in the Park."

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Empty nesters

It's fall and with the children back in school or off to college, many parents are experiencing "empty nest syndrome."

Pets also may be missing their little buddies.

"Your dog probably knows the difference between the shoes you wear to work and the shoes you wear to take him for a walk," Dr. Debra Horwitz, a board certified veterinary behaviorist, told ABC News. "They're very observant and they use those kinds of cues to determine what's going to happen in their day. So when everyone is home all summer and then, boom, they're not anymore, that change in routine can be anxiety provoking for certain individuals and trigger a distress response, when the dog is home alone and separated from the ones that he or she is most attached to."

Horwitz says signs of pet anxiety to look for are pacing, panting, whining, barking, chewing and sometimes appetite loss.

Hiding treats and toys around the house can provide mental stimulation to distract animals from the stress of separation anxiety. In extreme cases there are two approved medications.

"These animals are not being spiteful or mad," Horwitz told ABC News. "They are anxious and they are really worried."

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