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Does Costco Allow Dogs? A Quick Guide

2022-02-14

Costco is a wonderland: free samples, gigantic boxes of your favorite treats at shockingly low prices, and delicious baked goods, to name a few. Of course, this wonderland is accessible to members only, ensuring customer loyalty and regular visits. 

This restricted access extends to furry friends, as well. However, if you're hoping to treat your dog to a Costco hot dog in the store, there's some critical information to know. 

Read on to find out what kinds of dog visitors Costco permits and in what situations to ensure you're in keeping with their store rules. 

Are Dogs Allowed in Costco?

As is the case for many stores and public spaces, the answer is complicated. Costco permits service animals to accompany their owners, in keeping with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

The ADA, passed in 1990, ensures the rights of disabled Americans to access public spaces safely and eliminate discrimination based on disability status. According to the ADA, a service animal is “individually trained.” Unlike a regular pet, then, a service dog’s ability to work or perform specific tasks for its owner with a disability results from its specialized training. 

Service animals, emotional support animals, and therapy animals serve different purposes and have various legal rights to access public spaces. It is essential to understand the distinction between these three classifications of animals.

Service dogs fulfill a specific duty or task concerning a person's disability. Some examples: guide dogs who assist blind people in navigation; dogs that assist wheelchair users in opening inaccessible doors, cabinets, or carrying items for their owners; and dogs that recognize impending seizures and fetch help when they occur. 

Emotional support animals have fewer legal protections than service dogs, but generally, owners can secure housing with emotional support animals even in buildings with no-pet policies. While emotional support animals used to be able to fly with their owners, in early 2021, airlines reversed course; now, only service animals are allowed on most airlines. 

Therapy dogs are typically pets that visit hospitals, schools, and other settings alongside their owner to provide therapeutic services. These dogs usually do not have any more legal rights than the average pet. 

Costco’s corporate policy seems to allow only service dogs, which sticks with the protections of the ADA. 

Do Different Costco Stores Have Different Policies?

While Costco stores in different locations have different prices and sell other items, their policies generally remain consistent nationwide. That said, you might want to contact your local Costco, as store policies may vary slightly based on the store manager's preferences. 

By law, Costco employees have the right to ask two questions of members who claim their dog is a service animal. These questions are: “Is that a service animal?” and “What task or function is it trained to perform?” 

Anecdotally, some Costco members have noted that they rarely face these questions from employees. If your dog is well behaved and does not cause mayhem in the store, you are less likely to face scrutiny. 

Are There Exceptions to Costco Rules?

Depending on your local store, there may be some exceptions to Costco's service-animals-only rule. Despite Costco's official policy, some stores allow well-behaved, on-leash dogs to roam the store with their owners. 

Out of respect for fellow shoppers and Costco employees, you should contact the store you hope to visit with your dog in advance. Giving them a call is an easy, quick way to ascertain their store policies and whether they align with Costco's official, written policy. 

Some Costco stores also may make exceptions for emotional support animals. ESAs are in a tricky grey area when it comes to rules for support animals since they provide emotional support, even if they don’t go through specific training to do so like service animals.

The best thing for ESA owners to do is call the store’s manager to inquire about their position. Having ESA registration paperwork on hand also may help you make your case that this animal is a legitimate support animal that you need by your side. 

Conclusion

If you're interested in visiting Costco or any other public space with your dog, it never hurts to call ahead to check the store's policies. You are much more likely to have success bringing your beloved pet inside if they are well behaved and no longer have accidents inside. 

Regardless of your local store's policies, always treat employees and other customers with respect. Some people are afraid of or allergic to dogs, so it's vital to ensure your dog is well-trained before taking them to any public space.

If you're interested in registering your dog as an emotional support animal, consider registering with the Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Registration of America! We have resources to help you figure out if ESA registration is right for you and your dog, as well as harnesses, certificates, identification, and more for emotional support animals.