At the vigil Mass this past Saturday, I saw a middle-aged man with a small dog walking to the back of the church after Communion. The dog was not wearing a service-animal jacket, and the man disappeared from the parking lot before I could ask him anything. The average Catholics I speak to, weekly attendants, have no problem with this. I refer to Padre Pio, who meeting a wealthy mother of an American woman studying to be a sister, kicked the wealthy woman’s dog when it approached him. A ruckus ensued, Padre Pio apologized (which confuses me), but this tells me non-service animals should not be allowed in a church. Am I correct?
There are two principles at work here: One, pets (as distinguished from assistance animals) ordinarily do not belong in a church; two, parishioners should not concern themselves with how other congregants behave and should leave any necessary correction of a fellow congregant’s behavior to the pastor or his duly-appointed delegate (e.g., associate, deacon, usher).
You are correct that pets don’t belong in a parish, but you have no way of knowing the circumstances of the man you saw. Perhaps the dog is an assistance animal and simply was not wearing his identifying jacket that day. While that may mean that places of business that ordinarily do not allow animals inside might refuse entry to a person with a service animal not wearing an identifying jacket, a Catholic church (and its congregants) should give the person the benefit of the doubt. If you have a concern about someone who repeatedly brings in an animal that never wears an identifying service jacket, then talk to the pastor and let the pastor take action as he sees fit.
As for St. Pio of Pietrelcina, assuming your story is true (and not merely a legend), being a saint does not mean that he could not have made mistakes. By your own account, he apologized for kicking the dog, as well he should have if that is what he did. In any case, you are attributing a motive to the kick that your story does not support. Rather than anger over a dog in a church (a church is not mentioned), Padre Pio may not have wanted the dog sniffing around his feet (which reportedly had been affected by his stigmata).