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The ESA Registration Of America

Can You Bring Your Dog to Walmart? A Quick Guide

2022-02-16

You can bring your dog to many places: the park, amusement parks, and even some restaurants. But the question of whether or not you can bring your pet inside retail stores is hard to answer.

It depends on the store in question, the state, even the county you live in, and the kind of pet you have. The issue is not just whether you have a dog, a cat, or a parakeet. But if you have a dog, is it an emotional support animal, a service dog, or neither?

In this guide, we'll walk you through the dos and don'ts of taking your dog to Walmart and whether you can get away with it at all. 

What Is Walmart’s Policy On Pets?

The most official explanation of Walmart's pet policy comes from Walmart itself. In a brief statement on their corporate website, the international discount giant states that they “welcome service animals as defined by the ADA in our stores,” but that “we do not allow pets in our stores.”

In the past, Walmart allowed pets in on a store-by-store basis. There was no corporate policy governing how all the stores handled dogs and their owners. 

Many dog owners suspect that Walmart changed its policy to stay strict and only permit service dogs because of food safety concerns. Technically, Walmart operates as a grocery store. Grocery stores are one of the few establishments that have the right to refuse service to people and their pets, even service dogs.

Food safety is a serious concern. Even the most well-trained service dog can fall victim to the temptation of a free treat. If your dog is a registered service dog, they can enter Walmart stores.

Do Different Walmart Stores Have Different Rules?

In the past different Walmart stores had different rules about allowing dogs inside. But now, it's the company-wide policy that only service dogs can accompany their owners. 

It's good that service dogs are allowed inside Walmart stores. Research has shown that the presence of service dogs in their owners' lives benefits their owners' mental, emotional, and even physical health. 

The same goes for emotional support dog owners. Dog owners, in general, are more likely to leave the house to go on walks and runs. Because they have a living, breathing, loving creature expecting to be taken care of, owners often cultivate a sense of personal responsibility. 

The truth is that not all Walmart branches handle the matter similarly. Some store managers might look the other way, even if company policy states only service dogs can come inside. 

You can always call your local Walmart ahead of time to ask their position on bringing a dog inside the premises.

Are There Any Exceptions to Walmart Rules? 

Sadly there are no official exceptions to Walmart's strict rule that animals are not allowed inside the premises of their stores. The only exemption is for service dogs, which is legally enforceable in virtually all shopping and dining establishments, according to the ADA

However, you may get lucky with your local Walmart. The Walmart general manager at your local shopping center may allow dogs, even those that aren't registered service animals. 

The issue gets a little trickier if you have an emotional support animal, which doesn't qualify as a service animal per ADA guidelines. ESAs are technically support animals, but they don't receive the same protections in public facilities. 

If you have an ESA, your best bet is to outfit, accessorize, and train your dog in the right way. ESA registration, ID tags, and a harness can help demonstrate that your dog is more than a standard household pet but a support animal. 

Make sure your dog has gone through sufficient training, too. That includes becoming accustomed to being around large numbers of people and learning how to resist the temptation of food, even when it's right in their face. 

Finally, call your local Walmart before visiting and bring the necessary paperwork. There is a high likelihood that if they let you bring your dog in, an employee will ask for proof of its ESA registration.

What Kind of Pets Do Walmart's Policies Apply To?

There are all sorts of animals that people form bonds with and carry on with all sorts of animals as emotional support animals. There was even a man who attempted to bring his “emotional support peacock” aboard a flight.

However, Walmart is pretty strict about prohibiting pets, perhaps more than many other shopping centers. Use your judgment before you visit a Walmart store with your dog. Have your documentation ready if you're sure it's an animal that won't turn heads and be prepared to be asked to leave if it is. 

Emotional Support Animals vs. Service Dogs vs. Pets

The differences between service dogs, emotional support animals, and regular pets are important. The ADA only extends rights to service dogs who accompany handlers with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. 

Service dogs are technically not pets in the eyes of the ADA—they are work animals. They perform labor that the handlers can't do themselves. For this, they become indispensable to the owners' life, cutting them off from vital functions if they aren't allowed to accompany them.

Emotional support animals, or ESAs, don't have this training. They mainly provide emotional support to their owners as companions. That said, many who have ESAs know that these incredible animals are also more than pets. 

Their owners may be suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or something less intense. Whatever led them to adopt an emotional support animal, handlers may often find it necessary to have their ESA accompany them into public, including Walmart. 

Knowing the differences and being able to explain why you want to bring your dog into Walmart may help convince the store manager. Your best bet is to appeal to their compassion and hope for the best. 

Conclusion

Whether you're picking up a 12-pack of cup noodles or a prescription at Walmart, it's always important to know your rights when taking your dog into business.

If you are the proud and fortunate owner of an emotional support animal, you can also protect your rights and those of your dog by signing up for ESA registration. Registration is easy, and it can help show that you have a legitimate reason to bring your ESA into businesses.

Sign up today with ESA Registration of America.