Pet dogs aren’t allowed in shops in Tasmania – but some pampered pooches are taking advantage of a loophole which says dispensaries aren’t shops

According to the Tasmanian Pharmacy Authority, a “handful” of pharmacists are risking serious hygiene issues by bringing their pet dogs (which are not assistance animals) to work.

Tasmanian Pharmacy Authority registrar Margie Cole told the AJP that the Authority had first been made aware of the issue a few years ago, when it was alerted to one pharmacist keeping their dog by their side at work.

“The Dog Control Act in Tassie says that dogs aren’t allowed in shops,” Ms Cole says. “The Council, in its wisdom, said that the retail part is the shop, and the dispensary and the offices are not part of the shop, so the dog can be there.”

The TPA, which does not have authority over whether pharmacists bring their pets to work, approached the Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Health Department to implement legislation which would empower Councils to request the dogs not be brought to work.

But Ms Cole says that when changes were made to the Act this year, they did not include closing the loophole.

“When the amendment we expected wasn’t there, we put in a formal submission in April,” she says. “For some reason they say Cabinet knocked back that amendment to the Act in February, but I keep saying, ‘We made the submission in April’!

“I thought normal Government process would be to look at the submissions first.”

The submission, signed by TPA chair Rhys Jones, seeks an amendment that indicates a “shop” includes a pharmacy business premises be added to the current draft.

“There are serious concerns about hygiene with having any animal in the pharmacy, especially in the dispensary and medicines preparation area,” the submission reads in part.

“Members of the public have contacted the Authority from time to time expressing concern about the presence of dogs, and advising that they have observed pharmacists handling their dog (which some owners often have at their pharmacy) and then handling medicines without washing their hands.

“The Authority has Guidelines which state that pharmacy premises must not have any animals present, except for exempt Guide dogs and support animals. These Guidelines cannot be legally enforced, leaving the Authority without a mechanism to force dogs to be removed.

“The Authority has, in recent years, identified two owners who have their dogs present at their business and who strongly resisted the Authority’s request that they cease this practice.”

Margie Cole says that recent changes to the scope of pharmacy practice make the hygiene issue even greater than in previous years.

“Nowadays pharmacies can have vaccines being administered on the pharmacy premises, which again emphasises the need for hygiene,” she says.

“There’s a security issue – dogs need to be let in and out to wee and so on.

“Most pharmacies aren’t doing complex compounding here, but even if it’s simple, if you get a dog hair in it that’s going to be a problem.”

Dog owners aren’t necessarily restricting their pooches to the dispensary, either, she suspects.

“We say all these things to the owners, but they say, ‘look, he’s a dear little dog, and our customers love him,’ which is a clear indication that the dog is allowed in the shop part!

“Some people are very wary of dogs, if a child’s been bitten by a dog they’ll be very wary in that pharmacy.

“If somebody goes in there and gets bitten by this dog, we’ll be the ones looking silly on the front page of the paper. I don’t know why the Government didn’t allow such a tiny amendment to be made – back of house is a shop, it’s common sense.”

She said there are no clear numbers when it comes to dispensary dogs, but believes there are “a handful”.

“I suspect it actually occurs a little more than we’re aware of,” Ms Cole says. “Sometimes we’ve been there and there’s been evidence, but no dog. There’s been a dog bed and a stick that’s been chewed on in the dispensary.”