ASHEBORO, N.C. — We've all seen a service animal in one shape or another. They're almost always a dog trained to help someone with a physical or emotional disability.
So when someone called our station saying that someone brought a snake into the Asheboro Walmart, we had to make some calls to verify.
According to a manager at the East Dixie drive location, it did happen. He checked with his staff and someone did walk into their location with a snake at some point this week. The person claimed that the reptile was a service or support animal.
We asked about their policies and he said Walmart welcomes service animals. In fact, according to business insider, many Walmarts have begun posting signs saying "Service animals welcome. No pets." It's in response to several people bringing in their pets and claiming they were service animals.
On their website, the country's largest retailer specifies what they mean by that.
"Walmart is committed to making reasonable modifications to its policies, practices, and procedures to permit the use of service animals by its customers with disabilities. Service animals play an important role in ensuring the independence of people with disabilities, and it is our policy to welcome into our stores any animal that is individually trained to assist a person with a disability."
Their policy touches on some of the differences between "service" and "support" animals. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are specifically trained to help people with disabilities accomplish tasks. A good example would be a seeing-eye dog working with a blind person.
They're allowed in all businesses, even the ones that serve food. Owners are allowed to ask if the animal is a service animal and what they're trained to do. They can wear vests or harnesses, but they are not required to provide identification.
That's different from emotional support animals. Those animals are supposed to provide emotional support and comfort to their owners, according to the American Kennel Club. They don't have to be trained at all. But they are allowed to live in otherwise non-pet friendly areas with their owners according to the Fair Housing Act.
The problem is that getting your pet approved as an emotional support animal is actually pretty easy. Our news team took a look at just how easy it is. We've got a link to the article with their results at the bottom of the page.
Because of the ADA law, it can be hard for a business to determine that everyone's animals are actually service animals and not pets. Remember, they can only ask those two questions about the animal. And until there's new legislation or guidance, you may notice a few strange fellow shoppers.