Stores, Food, Dogs and Oregon

Apparently, folks in Portland like to bring companion animals into food stores, a predilection that the Oregon Agriculture Department (Food Safety Division) wishes to discourage.  The law states that only “service” animals may enter food stores.  However, enforcement of the rule is complicated by a Catch-22 created by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The ADA bars business owners from questioning people about the nature of their disability.  Though an animal may fall outside the category of service animal, the business owner cannot inquire if this is the case because that would involve asking why the animal’s presence is necessary.  Thus, though non-service animals are banned, enforcing the ban is illegal.

This situation raises a host of legal and ethical issues.  First, as a legal matter, the rule clearly is unenforceable.  Unenforceable laws (or laws that are routinely disregarded) serve no social purpose and undermine the legal system.  We must therefore ask: should this law be abolished?

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