Poll shows Northwest has short leash for therapy dogs



​​​SEATTLE – While most Northwest residents share an affinity for four-legged friends, the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance reveals some sharp difference in opinion when it comes to sharing certain public places with pets. About one in 10 think that all dogs should be allowed to join their two-footed owners in restaurants and stores, while slightly fewer, about 8 percent, think that all dogs – including legally permitted service dogs – should be barred from shops and restaurants in all instances.

The poll also reveals that while 89 percent of those responding believe that service dogs – dogs trained to help humans with disabilities perform daily tasks – should be welcome in stores and restaurants, many make an accurate distinction between service dogs and therapy dogs.

Therapy dogs have grown in popularity in recent years as therapeutic companions for people who seek an enhanced quality of life through interaction with an animal, often in clinical settings. In the Northwest, there are no legal provisions that permit people to bring therapy animals in public places that would otherwise enforce a “no pets” rule.

According to the poll, slightly more than half of those polled – 60 percent in Washington and 58 percent in Portland – say we should welcome therapy dogs in stores and restaurants.

The poll revealed that men are more likely than their female counterparts to object to shopping or dining with therapy dogs, in particular. About one-half of the men surveyed (46 percent) believe that dogs trained for therapeutic companionship should not be allowed in stores or restaurants.

Conversely, women are more lenient when it comes to therapy-oriented dogs. About two-thirds of women (66 percent) think that those dogs should be welcome to dine or shop with their owners.

“Perhaps part of the reason many oppose dogs inside stores and restaurants is the perception that animals are less sanitary than humans, or they present a safety risk,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. “But according to the Washington State Human Rights Commission, there’s no evidence that healthy, vaccinated, well-trained service animals are any greater threat to public health and safety than people.”

The PEMCO poll also found that two-thirds of Northwest residents own either a dog or a cat, with more households preferring canines over felines by 42 percent to 28 percent. That tracks with national data that supports an overall preference for pooches, according to the American Pet Products Association, a non-profit association that provides insight into United States pet ownership.

But when it comes to quantities, cats outnumber dogs in the Northwest with nearly a quarter, 22 percent, of Washington and Portland residents owning multiple cats. Just 15 percent say they own more than one dog.

The Fido facts are just one of a number of interesting findings the poll revealed about the relationships the Northwest has with animals.

“Often when I see a movie featuring Portland or Seattle, Hollywood would have us believe that we all have chicken coops in our back yards,” Osterberg said. “While the numbers don’t support the widespread adoption of the ‘Urban Chicken Farmer’ persona we’ve created in our tongue-in-cheek ad campaign, about 6 percent of Seattle and Portland urban residents admit to urban-chicken farming.”

To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit www.pemco.com/poll, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in April 2013.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 400 respondents in the Portland, Ore., metro area, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent and +/- 5.0 percent respectively at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. PEMCO ranks “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the Northwest Region” according to J.D. Power. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.