TJ Maxx Store Orders Customer To Put Service Dog In Cart Or Leave

girl_dog_snuggleA woman was shopping at a New Hampshire TJ Maxx with her service dog when the store manager asked her to put the animal in a shopping cart instead of allowing it to walk on the floor. She refused, saying that the dog wouldn’t fit in the cart, and was asked to leave the store. Now she’s taken her story to the media, and TJ Maxx has apologized.

“The store manager came over to me and said to me, ‘If you want to keep your dog in the store, you have to put him in the carriage,” she told Boston TV station WCVB. This was of interest to a Boston TV station not just because it’s local news, but because the 19-year-old was injured in the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last year, receiving shrapnel wounds, and still experiences post-traumatic stress disorder. Her mother was injured badly enough that her legs were amputated. She says that the dog has been her “lifeline” and furry support system. But should he be allowed in public places?

The definition of a service dog is very clear, and after many incidents involving abuse of laws allowing service dogs in public, the federal government recently clarified this definition.

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

None of the stories on this incident have specified that the dog has received training specific to stopping post-traumatic stress reactions. To meet the newly revised definition of a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an animal needs to have training to perform some kind of physical task for its owner. While being a companion and providing comfort is an important task, that’s not the legal definition of a “service animal.”

In any case, TJ Maxx says that the manager didn’t follow the chain’s own guidelines in this situation, and has apologized to the shopper.

We are taking this customer matter very seriously. Customers with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals are welcome in our stores at any time. We have looked into the particulars regarding this customer’s experience and deeply regret that our procedures were not appropriately followed in this instance. We are taking actions which we believe are appropriate, including working with our stores to reinforce the acceptance of service animals.

Marathon bombing survivor says service dog got her kicked out of store [WCVB] (WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO.) (Thanks, Marcus!)