Local pet store at center of mask debate

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HANOVER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — We’ve heard over and over again during the coronavirus crisis about the importance of wearing a mask.

But compliance has become a hot topic at a local pet store. Customers who come to Village Pet Supplies are used to seeing aisles filled with just about everything for their beloved animals. But during the pandemic many are not used to seeing someone not wearing a mask.

“People are just jumping to the conclusion that’s a bad person who doesn’t care about others,” owner Brenda Bartlett said.

Bartlett says the reason she doesn’t wear a mask has nothing to do with her politics. She has asthma.

“There are people who cannot under any circumstances wear a mask and here we’re talking eight to ten hours. We’re not talking five minutes to run into the grocery store,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett claims last week, one female customer in particular became verbally abusive about another staffer not wearing a mask. The customer removed her own mask and coughed on her hand before using a credit card. Bartlett alerted police but does not want to press charges.

“Oh, I just want people to find their compassion back again and give people the benefit of the doubt,” Bartlett said.

Pennsylvania Department of Health outlined mask-wearing exemptions including respiratory and other health issues, children under two years old and people who cannot remove a mask without assistance.

Bartlett says she’s tried to diffuse some of the hostility by hanging a sign on her front door. It indicates that employees like her are unable to wear a mask because of health conditions.

“I was a little shocked because I didn’t really expect to see someone without a mask,” customer Terry Karis said.

Karis asked Bartlett why she wasn’t wearing a mask, but asked politely.

“I don’t believe anybody should be abusive to anyone. Just be kind,” Karis said.

It’s all Bartlett really wants during these tense times.

“My main takeaway from all this is please find human compassion for others, you know,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett says her pet shop offers curbside service if anyone feels uncomfortable coming into the business where some employees cannot wear masks.

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