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Are animals allowed inside Vancouver businesses? Everything you need to know

And how one couple handled a scary situation.
dog in a shop
Dogs and other pets in places of business is a tricky topic. Here's what the City of Vancouver says about animals in businesses.

Animals in a place of business is a contentious topic.

Some people love encountering dogs out and about in Vancouver while it may make others nervous.

The problem is there aren't many hard and fast rules in place when it comes to having pets in the workplace, even when that workplace is open to the public like a store.

"The decision to allow an animal into a store is made by respective business owners unless the business prepares and serves food or provides a medical service," explains the City of Vancouver. Those exceptions are because such businesses are subject to B.C. health guidelines and regulations. The Vancouver Charter also has an "Exclusion of Dogs" clause that prohibits dogs from businesses where food is consumed. Otherwise, pets at businesses are somewhat fair game.

Couple encounters 'aggressive dog' at a Vancouver business

Recently, a pet in a place of business caused issues for a Vancouver man and his girlfriend when they had a scary encounter with an aggressive dog at a local convenience store.

David* says that his girlfriend went inside to make a purchase when an off-leash dog started barking at her. "She got kind of freaked out and she tried to walk out. But then the dog chased her out of the convenience store into a parking lot where I was parked," he tells V.I.A. in an interview.

David says he got out of the car and stood between the dog and his girlfriend and tried to scare it away. It was only at that point that the owner came out of the store and grabbed the dog and took it back inside. The man notes that the shop owner did not engage him or his girlfriend in conversation.

The couple was not injured and the dog didn't make physical contact with them but they did report the encounter to the Vancouver Police Department and the city.

What to do if you have an incident with an animal inside a Vancouver business

The rules that dictate when animals are and are not allowed in businesses do offer some provisions that protect people from situations like the one David and his girlfriend experienced, however. 

The Animal Control Bylaw applies to a business space the public can access such as a convenience store and the responsibility of the pet owner applies even inside a business.

These bylaws dictate that an animal may not run at large and that "a person who keeps a dog must not permit, suffer, or allow the dog to run at large." It also states that "a person who keeps a dog must not permit, suffer, or allow the dog to be on a street or other public place [such as a parking lot] unless the dog is under the immediate charge and control of a competent person by means of a leash."

By reporting the incident to the city, the couple discovered they were not alone in their experience.

The store has since been closed for unrelated reasons but a Yelp review of the business written last year echoes the concerns David and his girlfriend brought to light after their encounter with the shop operator's dog. "I'm very concerned for the public that enters this store. [...] When I put my hand on the door to leave, a large dog (appeared to be a German Shepard) came out aggressively from behind the counter. He was 5-6 inches from my thigh growling and barking. The clerk came around and after three demands for the dog to stop, the dog finally stopped and I left, pretty shaken. That dog was unleashed and not noticeable upon entry. Animal control has been informed. USE CAUTION!"

In an emailed statement to V.I.A, the City’s Animal Services staff confirm that the store and dog in question were, indeed, the subject of previously reported incidents. Further, the dog's "owner was ordered by the Provincial Court of BC in February 2022 to keep the dog on leash and under control when the store is open to the public." David and his girlfriend's most recent report triggered an investigation of the dog owner and the incident.

If you need to report an incident with an animal at a Vancouver business, you can contact animal control by email at

*Names changed to protect the safety of those involved.