Walmart is known for selling a large variety of products, which lets shoppers do their grocery shopping, pick up the latest technology, and get new furnishings for their home all in one place. But whether the retailer is changing its stock from season to season or removing products from shelves because of a recall, it often has to whittle down some of this inventory. Now, Walmart is getting rid of one thing both in stores and online. Read on to find out what the retailer is ending the sale of completely.
Walmart is getting rid of fake service dog vests.
Walmart has chosen to remove fake service dog vests from stores and its website, Spectrum News 1 in Worcester, Massachusetts, reported on March 30. According to the news outlet, the company notified NEADS World Class Service Dogs, a non-profit organization that trains service dogs, that it is getting rid of all service dog paraphernalia online and in stores.
"We are amazingly proud of Walmart for doing this," Cathy Zemaitis, NEADS director of development, told Spectrum News 1. "It was a big deal, and it happened very quickly. All of this communication began in January and it's only March and they've already done it, so we are pretty pleased."
This decision comes after a petition was made against the retailer.
Walmart's decision to remove fake service dog products from its inventory follows backlash the company received for having them. In Jan. 2022, an online petition was created, demanding Walmart stop selling these service dog vests in stores. As of April, the petition has reached more than 1,200 signatures.
But part of the backlash also came from the NEADS organization. Zemaitis told Spectrum News that when the organization received a photo of the fake service dog vests on display in a Walmart store, they contacted Assistance Dogs International who wrote a letter to Walmart on the organization's behalf.
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NEADS says it can be dangerous to try to pass dogs off as service animals.
While there are legitimate service dogs, vests and other paraphernalia sold at retailers like Walmart are often used for dogs that have not actually been trained or certified as service animals. And while this might seem harmless, Zemaitis said that trying to pass your dog off as a service dog or an emotional support animal when it is not can be dangerous.
"Bringing untrained, unsocialized animals into public spaces, a lot of times these animals become very worried, very upset. On an airplane, for example, become very claustrophobic," she told Spectrum News 1. "The reaction that an animal will have when put into that kind of situation can be very dangerous. It can be dangerous for the animal, it can be dangerous for the animal's handler, it can certainly be dangerous for the public and it can certainly be dangerous for service dogs who may be working in the area."
Walmart has a strict policy against dogs in its stores.
When it comes to Walmart's own stores, the retailer only allows service animals. "Walmart welcomes service animals as defined by the ADA in our stores, and we recognize the important role they play in many of our customers' lives," the company states on its website. "We do not allow pets in our stores."
In 2019, the retailer cracked down on shoppers trying to pass off non-service animals as such in their stores. According to Florida Today, Walmart added signs in its stores that year saying, "Service animals welcome. No Pets." The signs also explicitly stated what the retailer's definition of a service animal entails, per Insider: "Service animals are trained to do work or perform tasks for persons with disabilities. Comfort or emotional support animals are not service animals."
A Walmart spokesperson told Insider in 2019 that store associates will usually determine if a dog is a service animal by asking the owners. But even a legitimate service dog could get removed from its stores. "If a service animal poses a threat to health or safety, Walmart can exclude the animal from a store at that time," Walmart said in 2017 in response to a tweet.