Vicky Boyd, Staff Writer
Vicky Boyd, Staff Writer

Let’s face it. Residents and businesses in San Francisco march to a different beat.

After all, the City — as locals call it — has an ordinance that prohibits elephants from strolling down Market Street unless they’re on a leash.

So it really didn’t surprise me that little hairball dogs are given all the rights of shoppers in San Francisco grocery stores.

At the same time, this flies in the face of food safety rules that retailers have put on suppliers prohibiting animals around produce.

The first time I saw shoppers with dogs on leashes in a San Francisco Safeway produce department, I found an employee in a white shirt who I presumed was a manager and asked him about state health regulations barring dogs except for service animals from grocery stores.

He said I was correct but that management had told them not to ask if the dogs were service animals — they were to assume so.

The only time they could ask an owner to remove his or her dog was if it was acting aggressive or relieving itself in the store.

Another white-shirted employee next to him said she had previously worked in Sacramento, and that wasn’t the case there. They only allowed dogs in grocery stores that were truly service animals.

Based on personal observation, this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy isn’t limited to one retailer, either. I was in a Whole Foods later and saw someone with two hairballs on leashes strolling unfettered through the produce department.

A friend who used to live in the City told me that walking your dog through a produce department is just part of grocery shopping.

Yet these same retailers have strict food safety requirements of their suppliers.

One of the tenets of good agricultural practices is to keep animals — including dogs — out of fields and orchards.

In fact, some buyers’ rules are so strict that even signs that an animal has visited a field — such as droppings or flattened plants used for bedding — prevent harvest of that area.

In San Francisco, most people don’t have yards and instead walk their dogs on the streets. If the dog does its duty, the owner or dog walker grabs a bag and picks up the pile.

In all the times I’ve seen people clean up after their dogs, I’ve never seen one whip out a bottle of hand sanitizer afterward.

How many of these people have to stop and do a clean-up in route to grocery shopping is unknown.

But I can just picture the person picking up the dog poop, then minutes later fingering peaches, leafy greens, apples or squash in the grocery store — hands still unwashed.

If growers, shippers and other handlers have to preclude animals from their facilities to enhance food safety, then shouldn’t retailers have to follow similar rules to continue food safety through the distribution chain?

If not, then food safety has just gone to the dogs.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.