Most dog owners are conditioned to think that they can't bring their pups into stores, but several big box stores are considered relatively dog-friendly, especially regarding an emotional support animal (ESA) or service dog. If you are wondering if dogs are allowed at Costco, we have the answer. But before you go for your monthly trip to Costco, there are several things to remember so that it is a safe experience for all.
Costco is a popular shopping destination for those looking to buy large quantities of their favorite grocery items, produce, baked goods, bath and body products, cleaning supplies, pet food, and more. Many people require their ESA when they leave the house to shop.
What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA?)
Emotional support animals (ESA) are specially trained dogs can assist individuals struggling with mental health conditions like anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and depression. Having an ESA can help decrease the anxiety, loneliness, and nervousness these people experience when leaving their predictable environment at home.
You've likely seen several ESAs in public before, as there are approximately 500,000 of them currently assisting their beloved humans in the US. Plus, it's estimated that in any given year, 1 in every 5 Americans will experience a mental illness.
Instead of prescribing medication right away, many doctors recommend trying an ESA first. Like they would with antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, the first step is receiving a prescription for an ESA from a doctor.
Between the large crowds, aisles piled high with items, and loud noises at Costco, many people prefer to bring their ESAs along for the shop.
Bringing a Pet to Costco
For people with mental illnesses, having an ESA can be life-changing, making a world of difference in their day-to-day lives.
Costco's current policy states that only service dogs can enter the store, so it's crucial to have the required ESA documents. Costco employees do have the right to ask two questions to determine whether or not your dog is considered a service animal:
- Is that a service animal?
- What task or function is the dog trained to perform?
Costco's policy also states that the allowance of a service dog into any location complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the dog must be trained to perform a function or task, and no health or safety laws are being broken.
To ensure that your ESA can safely enter the store with you, bring your ESA letter whenever you visit. If you're wondering how to get an ESA letter, it's simpler than you might think and will show the employees at Costco (and other stores) that your pup helps you deal with a specific condition related to mental health. Don't worry—an ESA letter doesn't contain details about your mental health diagnosis.
To make your dog or other pet an ESA, you'll need a mental health evaluation with a qualified medical professional in your state. Before booking a doctor's appointment, you can find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal by taking this short quiz.
Why Bring Your Pet to Costco?
Bringing your ESA into Costco can make the experience much less stressful and more comfortable. But before embarking on the shopping trip with your furry helper, they must be adequately "potty-trained," secured on a leash, and well-behaved. Even if your dog is a certified ESA, Costco employees may ask you to leave if your pup is compromising the health and safety of others.
The Bottom Line
Like many other stores, Costco understands that an ESA can alleviate its owner's anxiety, depression, and specific phobias. But as an ESA owner, it is your responsibility to provide staff members and employees with the proper documentation when asked.
At the very top of this list is a signed ESA letter. This piece of official documentation certifies that your animal is much more than a pet and serves an important role in supporting your emotional and mental health.
Every ESA letter must include the following:
- The licensed mental health professional's (LMHP) official letterhead
- The LMHP's license number and contact information
- Specific language that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) require under the Fair Housing Act (FHA)
Unless Costco changes its current policy on service dogs, bringing your ESA into the warehouse for an afternoon of shopping is perfectly acceptable if you bring along your official ESA letter.
Get started on an ESA letter application for an emotional support animal.
- Dugal, Genevieve “10 Remarkable Service Dog Statistics: What to Know in 2022”, Pet Keen, last updated Oct 20, 2022.
- N.A. “About Mental Health”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last reviewed June 28, 2021.
- N.A. “Are Service Animals Allowed in Costco Warehouses?”, Costco Wholesale website.
- Chandler, Cynthia K., “Confirming the benefits of emotional support animals”, Counseling Today, April 20, 2015.