An upcoming business workshop will focus on the do's and don'ts of taking service dogs to the store.

Taking dogs or other service animals inside stores, restaurants and businesses is a pet peeve with many in Citrus County.

Supporters say they are entitled by law to bring Fido with them because it calms them and they have the law on their side. Critics say dogs, cats and other assorted animals have no place inside a grocery store or restaurant because it isn’t hygienic and — unless they are certified service dogs — need to stay outside.

“Service Dogs: The law and how it affects businesses,” is sure to be one of this year’s most well-attended workshops in the 2020 Citrus Business Series, which kicks off this month.

This is the second year of this series. The College of Central Florida decided to partner with the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce and try it out in this county because of its success in Marion County.

“Citrus County’s economy continues to improve so businesses and organizations need to be ready to step up their game to take advantage of it,” according to a CF Corporate College press release. “That often takes an investment in training.”

And training is the driving force behind this series of workshops.

Slow start, big finish

The Citrus County Chamber of Commerce sent out inquiries to all its members last year, asking for their ideas as to which topics would be most beneficial, said Ardath Prendergast, the chamber’s manager of operations and communications.

Many of those topics are back this year, including the one on Cybersecurity, which was popular, she said. That one kicks off this year's slate of workshops and will be held 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Jan. 21 at the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce office. 

Of course the service dog seminar should be well-attended, she said.

“That’s a topic that is so timely,” Prendergast said. “People don’t really know how to handle it. You have to be so careful how you question people who bring dogs or animals.”

For example, business owners are only required by law to ask certain questions when they see a dog or animal in their store or business.

This seminar is designed to help frontline staff, volunteers, store managers and owners — even elected officials — know the law regarding service dogs. It will also focus on the needs of customers when there is a conflict.

The service dog workshop will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the College of Central Florida Citrus Campus in Lecanto, off County Road 491. It will be repeated from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Feb. 18 at the chamber office, 915 U.S. 19 in Crystal River.

Prendergast said last year’s series workshops weren’t well-attended at first. But, she said, as word spread, things changed.

“We saw that each month it seemed to grow a little bit more so we were encouraged to do it again this year,” she said.

Timely topics

Each interactive, two-hour workshop will provide practical and useful tips, tools and techniques that attendees can start using right away. And you don’t have to be a business owner to attend.

The 2020 schedule includes these topics:

  • Cybersecurity
  • The law surrounding service dogs
  • Business networking
  • Marketing your business
  • The entrepreneurial equation
  • Running effective meetings
  • Customer care and service recovery
  • Managing and supervising
  • Generations in the workplace
  • Time management/goal setting/accountability
  • Americans with Disabilities Act website compliance
  • Social media
  • Human Resources basics
  • Leadership vision

Need more information?

Yes. For background on each of the 14 class topics, including dates and times, visit For more information, call the Corporate College at 352-873-5855 or write to

When and where?

Each workshop will be offered twice monthly and at different locations: First Fridays at the College of Central Florida Citrus Campus, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. (except during June, July and August, when sessions will be held at the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce).

They will also be offered from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. every third Tuesday at the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

How much and how do I register?

Individual workshop fee is $29. Register and pay online at:, or to register by phone call 352-873-5855 or write to

You don’t have to be a chamber member or Citrus County resident to participate. No refunds will be granted five business days prior to each workshop. Pre-registration and payment are required to attend; walk-ins on the day of a workshop are discouraged.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or

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