According to the last Supermarkets Warned, pet owners will no longer be able to take their animals with them. At the same time, food shopping, despite measures to ensure safety and hygiene. The health authorities have started clamping down on supermarkets, warning it is illegal.

The sudden crackdown is expected to kick up a backlash from once contented customers. They are accustomed to being accompanied by their pets, supermarket owners fear. 

Last week, they received surprise on-site visits and were informed that pets were no longer allowed by the Food Safety Act of 2004. So that “prevents domestic animals from having access to places where food is prepared, handled and stored.”

The supermarkets have, to date, allowed pets, either in specific trolleys or carried in customers’ arms and handbags, in their carriers, or on a short leash, effectively excluding big dogs from entering.

Pama and Pavi deputy CEO Malcolm Camilleri said his supermarkets had dedicated trolleys for pets. Mainly dogs, for two years, following pressure from customers to allow them in.

He was now expecting to face complaints and problems for having to reverse this policy.

“From the feeling we have, pets are like kids for their owners, and they like to have them. They buy them clothes and even come with their pushchairs,” Camilleri said.

Following Italy’s large Conad supermarket chain model, he said Pama and Pavi each have six specific trolleys for easy shopping with pets. And there were even times when these were not enough.

He noted that one and three pets were always seen in the stores at any given time.

“We favor allowing pets if regulations follow all necessary health precautions. And they are not allowed next to the food,” Camilleri said.

Contradictory laws? 

But under sudden pressure to prohibit them, Camilleri said that he explained their position to the authorities, insisting that while pets have been allowed in the supermarkets for the last four years, they could never run around the shop floor and could not be left unattended.

The law is the law, and we will have to follow it. But we cannot agree with these supermarkets warned.

He said the supermarkets would be fined if they did not abide by the regulations. He was told restaurants would be next and that the old revived law contradicted a recent law that allowed pets in public spaces.

Customers were quoting this latest law, he said, when told they could not bring their pets.

“For now, we cannot stop this,” Camilleri continued. Expect the authorities to make it public after creating a “false perception that pets are allowed anywhere.”

Wellbee’s Supermarket CEO, Jonathan Shaw, confirmed the chain was also “given the heads-up” about the illegality last week.

It had always adopted a “sensible approach, in keeping with customers’ lifestyle of combining walking the dog with food shopping. While bearing in mind and valuing that others did not like to see animals on the shop floor.”

“We have always tried to strike a middle ground, allowing small dogs that could be carried or kept in check on a short leash,” Shaw said.

He said they were never allowed in the shopping carts. Especially where food is placed, supermarkets were mostly about packaged food, not its direct preparation and exposure.

Green Supermarkets Warned

“But, with this enforcement out of the blue, we do not want patrons to think supermarkets have an issue with this,” Shaw highlighted.

Wellbee’s Supermarkets have notices saying pets are allowed if they can be carried. No big dogs are allowed, but they have now been informed these signs are illegal.

“The law is the law, and we will have to follow it,” Shaw said. They were so adding that other countries gave shop owners the flexibility to decide.

From the psychological point of view, he acknowledged that pet owners “humanized” and adored their animals and would not accept being told they could not bring them in.

“I understand the dynamics of the pet-owner relationship. And we will have to face that issue because some may decide not to go where their pets are not allowed. The legal notice is black and white and does not go into the merits of this.

“We will need to explain to them that this is not coming from our end,” he pointed out.

Joseph Sammut, managing director at Greens Supermarket, said it had introduced the special boxes on trolleys for pets some months ago, meaning animals did not touch food.

“Our customers were pleased. Their pets came dressed up, and it has been like a show, while others never complained and enjoyed seeing them too,” he said.

Following the warning to stop this, Sammut said there would now have to be removed. And Greens supermarkets would adopt a wait-and-see approach hoping it would change the ‘old’ law, and the practice continued.

“If pets are left running around in supermarkets… I would agree with it, but, as things stand, they should revise the law,” he said.

I don’t agree with this Supermarkets Warned too.

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