Doggone it! The Northwest’s rift on service, therapy dogs in public

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Service dogSEATTLE – In a region where a majority of people have a cat or a dog, surprisingly, many people in the Northwest want people to keep their specially trained pets at home.

According to a new PEMCO poll, only 50% of people in our state believe service and therapy-animals should be allowed everywhere their owners go, even places like stores or restaurants designated as ‘pet free.’ There’s even a discrepancy over how people feel about service versus therapy dogs. Service dogs generally assist people with disabilities or health conditions. Therapy dogs are utilized to provide comfort and therapeutic companionship. 36% of men polled would allow service dogs into stores or restaurants, but would pull the leash for therapy dogs. 66% of women think therapy dogs should be welcomed in establishments.

“Perhaps part of the reason many oppose dogs inside stores and restaurants is the perception that animals are less sanitary than humans or they present a safety risk,” Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson said. “But according to the Washington State Human Rights Commission, there’s no evidence that healthy, vaccinated, well-trained service animals are any greater threat to public health and safety than people.”

The survey found extremes on both sides of the issue, with 10% saying all dogs should be allowed in all public places. Roughly 10% of people felt the exact opposite, saying no dogs should ever be allowed in public.

The PEMCO survey found two-thirds of Northwestern residents have either a dog or a cat. Many prefer dogs to cats, 42% to 28%. However, cats outnumber dogs in the Northwest. Nearly a quarter of residents in Washington and Portland own multiple cats, while just 15% have more than one dog.

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