Woman says she faced 'degrading' questions about emotional support dog at Que. Walmart
Published Sunday, July 22, 2018 7:35PM EDT
A woman in Quebec said she felt disrespected and embarrassed when a Walmart employee confronted her about bringing her emotional support dog to the store.
Louise Fournier said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and her support dog, a Chihuahua named Bizou, is her “everything.”
Fournier said she takes Bizou everywhere – to church, to the movies and to her doctor’s office.
She recently spent about an hour shopping inside a Chateauguay, Que., Walmart before heading to the cash register to pay for her items. She said that’s when a Walmart employee confronted her about Bizou, whom she carried in her bag.
Fournier said the employee told her that she wasn’t allowed to bring the dog into the store. She showed the employee a note from her doctor, which states that Bizou “helps Louise with her emotional issues, anxiety and depression.”
Fourier told CTV Montreal that the employee loudly and rudely questioned her about the dog in front of other customers and staff, which embarrassed her and caused her so much anxiety she had to medicate herself when she got home.
She said that after reading her doctor’s note, the employee walked away.
“It was degrading, she embarrassed me in front of everybody,” Fournier said. “It was not handled professionally.”
Walmart Canada did not reply to CTV Montreal’s request for comment.
A spokesperson for the ASISTA Foundation, which provides service dogs for people with PTSD, autism and mental support disabilities, said the case highlights the confusion surrounding service animals and emotional support animals. He said there is a difference between the two, and that service dogs are specially trained and accredited.
“An emotional support dog is usually just that, for emotional support, to comfort the person in very anxious situation,” John Agionicolaitis told CTV Montreal. “Otherwise a service dog is really trained to perform specific tasks for the person.”
The Quebec Human Rights Commission says that service dogs should have a collar or a harness from an established organization like Mira, which provides dogs for people with disabilities.
Bizou does not have a collar or a harness, and Fournier said the dog had no special training.
Walmart’s policy on accommodating customers with disabilities states that service animals are permitted to enter the company’s stores. But it also says that in cases where a service animal is not easily identifiable, a Walmart employee shall ask for confirmation from the customer.
Fournier said her experience highlights the need for businesses to be more sensitive to the needs of people with “invisible disabilities.”
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Kelly Greig