I would like to add to Toni Popkin’s recent letter to the editor [“A Pretend Service Dog,” Gazette Packet, July 12]. I am one of the small but unfortunately growing minority of the general population that is allergic to dogs. For me, being in a building that allows dogs can lead to an asthma attack. Once the asthma attack begins, it can take several weeks or months of healing and the assistance of prescription steroids before I fully recover.
Before a person brings their pet dog into a business, please also consider those who have allergies. Bringing dogs into businesses without an actual need due to a disability does real harm to those with allergies. When only a small minority of the general population uses service dogs, my amount of exposure to dogs in indoor public places is relatively limited, and my allergies are reasonably manageable. When an additional group of pet owners starts bringing their dogs into stores, restaurants, and mass transit mostly because they prefer the companionship, I have to start rethinking what stores I can and can’t patronize and even how I travel.
I realize there are many dog lovers in Alexandria, and surely not all will be sympathetic readers of this letter. That noted, I support Toni Popkin’s call to rethink this casual certification of emotional support animals as well as the practice of bringing dogs into indoor public spaces “just because.” It makes those who allergic to dogs ill, it muddies the legitimacy of those who truly need service dogs, and business owners risk losing customers and income.
Many businesses in Alexandria already have dedicated outdoor spaces with water bowls and places to leash dogs while their humans go inside. This remains a great way to take a dog with you around town and provide a comfortable space for your pet, all while making it unnecessary to ever bring a pet inside. It is the best way I know of to conveniently harmonize the needs and desires of all mentioned groups.