Fred Meyer responds to blind woman’s demand

Laura Westerhuis' service dog was almost attacked by a Pit Bull inside a store

Fred Meyer spokesperson Melinda Merrill dons a blind fold, assisted by KOIN 6 reporter Jessica Morkert as Laura Westerhuis and her service animal Carol look on. (KOIN 6)
Fred Meyer spokesperson Melinda Merrill dons a blind fold, assisted by KOIN 6 reporter Jessica Morkert as Laura Westerhuis and her service animal Carol look on. (KOIN 6)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – New Oregon legislation may be in the pipeline after a legally blind woman afraid to go to her local grocery store pushed the issue of regulating guide dogs inside a North Portland Fred Meyer.

Laura Westerhuis’ guide dog, “Carol,” was nearly attacked by a Pitbull, something that led her to lobby Fred Meyer for their policy on regulating dogs inside the stores.

Fred Meyer policy is only to allow service animals inside stores. However, the only way to legally monitor that is to ask the owner whether their animal is a service animal.

Laura Westerhuis' service dog, "Carol," was nearly attacked inside a Fred Meyer. (KOIN 6)
Laura Westerhuis’ service dog, “Carol,” was nearly attacked inside a Fred Meyer. (KOIN 6)

As a result, Fred Meyer spokesperson Melinda Merrill said the company is reissuing its policy and issuing an official apology to Westerhuis.

“It’s got to be fixed, there’s got to be some kind of requirement for licence or certification,” said Merrill.

Presently, she said there is very little the store can do.

Walking in her shoes 

Merrill walked through a local store blindfolded, in order to see what it was like for someone to walk through a grocery store without vision.

“Let’s join together and try and make a change on this,” said Westerhuis. The two were in agreement.

“This [issue] has got to be raised to the top,” said Merrill.

Westerhuis said when a person comes into the store with a dog that is not a trained service animal, it distracts from her dog’s training, and in the case of the pit bull two weeks ago, puts her in danger.

True service dogs don’t growl or badger other animals, Merrill said.

Oregon Senator Jeff Kruse said he is researching how often issues related to non-service animals interfering with true service animals arise, and there may be legislation in the next session.

Why store managers can’t keep non service dogs out

Store managers said their hands are often tied when customers passing their animals off as service animals enter the store.

Managers can ask two questions.
• Is the dog a service animal?
• What tasks does it perform?

KOIN 6 will continue to follow this story.

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