DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – A ball of fur and two puppy eyes staring out from a purse is a common sight these days. Celebrities may have started the trend, but dog lovers all over are now taking their furry friends everywhere.

The question is…when should Fido be left behind?

“I almost feel like people are using their dogs as an accessory versus just an animal,” Ashley Johnson said, as she looked at all the shoppers at NorthPark Center in Dallas. Johnson does not believe a crowded mall is a place for dogs.

Janet Berry disagrees. “I love to see animals out and about.” Berry has dogs and likes to see them out with their owners.

Keith Burner does not have a problem with it either. “People seem to be taking their everywhere they go.”

All three shoppers stopped to talk to the CBS 11 News I-Team at NorthPark Center after a viewer sent us an email. The self-admitted “big dog lover” said what he saw at NorthPark Center was not appropriate. He took a picture of a woman standing with her dog, on a leash, in the food court. She was in line waiting for food. The man who emailed us said he contacted the mall and the City of Dallas but got no response.

So we went undercover to see just how common of a sighting this is.

The I-Team also found dogs in the food court at NorthPark Center on several occasions. We saw them sitting in the food court. We shot video of people walking their dogs through the mall into the major department stores. One woman carried her pooch in a purse, in the makeup section of a high-end department store.

And, sitting on a shelf near the linens in another department store, we saw a light-colored Chihuahua looking around as shoppers passed. The dog sat quietly for several minutes without anyone even noticing, until a customer walked over to the shelf to look more closely at what she discovered was a live dog. She said, “Oh my.”  At that point, the dog’s owner, who was standing in line to pay, rushed over to rescue the little dog. A young girl, who appeared to be her daughter, ran from across the aisle. She had left her furry little friend on the shelf while she played and the older woman waited in line.

But it’s not just malls. The I-Team, also found dogs wandering around boutiques in Dallas and lying on floors near store counters. We saw them rushing to greet customers in Snider Plaza and carried by their owner in stores in Inwood Village in Dallas.

Our undercover cameras saw the pets riding in shopping carts in popular discount stores. And, online you see many pictures of dogs in grocery store shopping carts sparking debates about where this is acceptable.

The answer? Most of what we saw violated no ordinance or law.

In Dallas, the city allows stores to make their own calls about where dogs are and are not allowed.

However, the dogs we saw in the food court and in a carrier at one Dallas restaurant are violations. Restaurants in Dallas cannot allow dogs inside unless there is a sign posted on the door and the place has a patio. In 2008, the city of Dallas passed an ordinance allowing dogs on patios that have received a permit.

Plano Environmental Health Manager Geoffrey Heinicke is researching the pros and cons. “Some animals may be well behaved but then other animals come into the picture and that may not be well- behaved. Get food involved and dogs tend to be territorial.”

Heinicke is also looking at the potential for allergies, hair, dander, disease and more. “Of course animals are prone to relieve themselves. That’s another thing we need to consider having guidelines in place to make sure any messes are cleaned up and they are responding in an adequate amount of time.”

The issue is a growing debate across the country.

Plano is just one of many cities where people are questioning where man’s best friends should be welcomed and where they should be shown the door.

“I don’t think it needs to be in a food establishment, “said Tanya Royal, who said it seemed “dirty.”

North Park Center sent the I-Team the following statement:

“NorthPark Center’s Code of Conduct prohibits guests from bringing animals to NorthPark, except for essential service animals. If someone were to bring an animal to NorthPark that is not a service animal, and security was aware of the situation, the guest would be reminded and asked to comply. “

The City of Dallas sent this statement:

“Having non-service dogs and service dogs in a facility such as indoor/outdoor shopping mall, stores which have package/unpackaged food and stores which do not sell food is determined by the property owner and most likely will post a “no pets sign” if prohibited.  Animals are required to be on a leash and registered with the City of Dallas if over 4 months of age when outside of their property. Pets are not allowed in restaurants including food courts, but some locations have a variance to allow pets on the patio.  We currently have no locations at North Park Mall to possess a pet variance.  We will meet with security services and/or food court personnel at North Park to further educate them on the City ordinances regarding pets in food establishments.  Code Compliance Services will supply the necessary contact information and instruct mall personnel to contact the department if a violation occurs and an inspector will serve a Notice of Violation/warning with a second visit resulting in a citation.”

Service dogs are allowed in all public places.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Latest News:

[display-posts category=”news,sports” posts_per_page=”5″]

Top Trending: