Annie's Mailbox: Where are people allowed to bring dogs?

Dear Annie: Some time ago, relatives from out of town asked to visit us when they were here for a nearby event. We agreed, as we seldom get to see these people. To our surprise, they arrived with the dog they had recently rescued from the pound. It was just a few months old and not housebroken. Worse, we were stuck dog-sitting the evening they went out.

Recently, we were at the local market and a woman walked by with a small, very hairy dog riding in the cart. The assistant manager informed us that there are “comfort dogs,” and people can take them anywhere if they have the right papers. A week later at our corner cafe, we noticed there was a dog sitting in a chair at the table next to us. We got up and left.

I have nothing against dogs, Annie, but isn’t there a proper place for them? What are the rules these days?

— Puzzled in California

Dear Puzzled: Comfort animals are not the same as trained service animals for the disabled and do not have the same legal protections, although some courts have given certain protections to doctor-prescribed emotional-support animals. Most laws regarding comfort animals involve fair housing practices and transporting animals on airplanes. There are no specific federal legal protections (yet) allowing comfort animals to sit at restaurant tables or in grocery carts. As for your visiting friends, make sure you inform them next time that their dog will have to stay elsewhere.

Dear Annie: My 24-year-old daughter is living with me because she cannot afford to live on her own with three baby boys. She could receive help from the government but chooses not to apply for assistance. She says it is embarrassing.

She does have a job, but gets no help from the fathers of the children (two different men). The problem is, this situation is not helping my marriage. My husband has been very patient with his stepdaughter and helps out, but he does not have any patience when it comes to her making the same mistake over and over — having a child out of wedlock or when she’s not in a committed relationship.

How do I get my daughter to be more responsible and move out of my house? I love her and my grandchildren and have been helping them for four years, but I am tired and want my life back.

— Mother With No Life

Dear Mother: As long as you are taking care of her, your daughter sees no point in getting help from the government or the children’s fathers. There are no financial consequences for her poor decisions. She won’t become more responsible until she is forced to. Tell her to apply immediately for government assistance and file the necessary papers for child support because you want her to move out within three months and she will need the money. Help her by babysitting for the kids on occasion or buying her some household necessities, but stop enabling her manipulative, immature behavior.

Dear Annie: I work as a consultant in the health insurance industry. One thing you didn’t mention to “Cannot Take Back the Spoken Word” is that the blabbermouth working in the clinic is in violation of federal regulations and federal law from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules.

Both the “gossip girl” and the clinic may be liable for federal penalties. For more information and instructions on how to file complaints, readers can check the HHS Web site at hhs.gov/ocr/privacy.

— R

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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