So, here is one of the most interesting quotes I’ve ever received in more than 12 years of reporting: “I’m going to get a goat from my friend and march that goat right through the front door of Walmart.”
That statement, by East County resident Trish Chandler, was made while I interviewed her following an equally shocking email she wrote to the paper. Her subject line: “HORROR AT WALMART ON SR 64.”
Yes, in all caps.
Chandler is an avid Walmart customer, but an incident on March 10 has her rethinking her shopping routine. As she placed her items on the counter that day, she noticed a customer with a snake wrapped around his arm.
“I looked over, and that guy had a rattler,” she told me. “I thought, ‘I must be dreaming.’
“I am deathly afraid of snakes … and I came undone,” Chandler said. “My breathing became irregular, and I flipped out.”
Unfortunately, speaking with Walmart’s management did little to assuage her concerns. The reptile-toting customer identified the snake as a service animal, and, as per guidelines outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is little Walmart could have done in this situation.
Furthermore, Walmart’s own guidelines are well defined:
“Walmart welcomes customers with service animals. People greeters are the Walmart associates responsible for determining if an animal is a service animal. Most of the time, people with disabilities who use service animals may be easily identified without any need for questioning. If you can tell by looking, you should not make the customer feel unwelcome by asking questions. If you are unsure whether an animal meets the definition of a service animal, one people greeter and, where necessary, a member of store management may ask the customer only one question: Is this a service animal required because of a disability?
“If the customer says ‘yes’ or otherwise explains that the animal is required because of a disability, you should welcome the person and service animal into the store. Do not ask any further questions about the customer or his or her service animal. You may not ask a customer questions about his or her disability. You may not ask a customer to show a license, certification or a special ID card as proof of their animal’s training. You must permit service animals to accompany customers with disabilities to all areas of our stores normally used by other customers.”
“There’s nothing you could do, I could do or the president of the United States could do,” State Road 64 Walmart Store Manager Jim Jackson told me. “The snake was in control at all times, and it wasn’t a rattler. It probably was a python of some kind.”
Which brings us back to the goat.
Following her ill-fated trip, Chandler called the store and spoke with a member of the management team.
So, it’s my understanding that if someone comes into the store with a panther, a tiger, an elephant a skunk — whatever it is — Walmart does not question (the customer) or make (him or her) show legitimate paperwork.
And now, Chandler wants to test that policy herself with a “service goat” on a rope.
“I am totally distraught over this experience,” she says. “What if I had walked up on that snake near the produce or some other section? I would have probably had a heart attack and died right there on the spot.”
So, this story begs the question: How do you feel about regulations (or lack thereof) governing the use of service animals. Is it too loose? What would you have done if you saw a snake at your big-box retailer of choice? Or a goat? Please email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.