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Annie’s Mailbox: Uncomfortable with comfort dogs

Thu., Jan. 7, 2010

Dear Annie: Some time ago, relatives from out of town asked to visit us when they were here for a nearby event. We agreed, as we seldom get to see these people. To our surprise, they arrived with the dog they had recently rescued from the pound. It was just a few months old and not housebroken. Worse, we were stuck dog-sitting the evening they went out.

Recently, we were at the local market and a woman walked by with a small, very hairy dog riding in the cart. The assistant manager informed us that there are “comfort dogs,” and people can take them anywhere if they have the right papers. A week later at our corner cafe, we noticed there was a dog sitting in a chair at the table next to us. We got up and left.

I have nothing against dogs, Annie, but isn’t there a proper place for them? What are the rules these days? – Puzzled in California

Dear Puzzled: Comfort animals are not the same as trained service animals for the disabled and do not have the same legal protections, although some courts have given certain protections to doctor-prescribed emotional-support animals. Most laws regarding comfort animals involve fair housing practices and transporting animals on airplanes. There are no specific federal legal protections (yet) allowing comfort animals to sit at restaurant tables or in grocery carts. As for your visiting friends, make sure you inform them next time that their dog will have to stay elsewhere.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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