Dog Friendly Restaurants are becoming the norm.
Although you may have heard that in other countries it is a commonplace event to see a person eating out in a public establishment with his or her dog, such activity was not all that popular in the United States until recently. Fortunately, there are now several pet friendly restaurant choices for those who wish to dine with their dog. However, many dog friendly restaurants restrict their dog friendly area to the restaurant’s outdoor or patio area – or if you’re lucky the dock area!
As with many issues concerning pets, a bit of controversy surrounds whether or not it is safe and sanitary to allow dogs in restaurants. Of course, service dogs are permitted in all restaurants including the interior, regardless of the specific establishment’s rules about dogs in general, but in many cases, due to certain US health code laws, dogs that are merely pets are not allowed in food service areas. Certain veterinarians, such as Doctor Kjerstin Jacobs who owns a practice in Chicago, Illinois, state that there are no obvious health risks to patrons of restaurants where dogs are allowed to dine, and that as long as the pooch is not aggressive and is up to date on his or her shots, it is perfectly safe and sanitary.
However, the United States Food and Drug Administration prohibits live animals – with the exception of fish which are contained in tanks – in dining environments. They cite health concerns such as restaurant employees petting the animal and then proceeding to handle food, or concerns that the pet will urinate or defecate on the floor. Dog hair finding its way into one’s food is also a concern. Proponents of dog friendly restaurants, however, state that pet hair is often brought into a restaurant on the clothes of patrons even if their dogs are not present. They also point out that well-trained dogs will not suddenly decide to “go on the floor,” and responsible pet owners would never bring an animal that is not yet bathroom trained into a restaurant.
Restaurant owners have several things to consider when trying to decide whether or not to allow people to dine with their dogs. The first step is to apply for a variance to the office of the local health inspector in the area where the restaurant is located. However, the owner of the establishment should evaluate the restaurant’s design and consider making renovations, if necessary, in order to have the best chance of getting the variance approved.
For example, if the city or state allows dogs in outdoor dining areas, the proprietor may choose to set up a covered patio area with an outdoor heating and cooling system and whatever else is necessary to create ambiance and comfort. It may need to have a fully closing door between the main restaurant and the dog friendly area, but in this way it would pass the “outdoor only” regulation imposed in most states. Additionally, it is helpful for restaurant owners to know that bars that serve only prepackaged snacks and beverages are typically exempt from the laws that ban animals from the establishment. Therefore, the restaurant owner may choose to add a few cocktail tables to the bar, thus making a dog friendly dining area.
Ultimately, each proprietor must decide for himself or herself if the restaurant will be Fido- friendly. Many owners decide to pursue this option in order to offer pet owners a place to enjoy a meal without always having to leave their dog behind. Fortunately, the trend appears to be shifting toward pet friendly dining in many states, so dog owners have every reason to hope that one day this option may be as common as it is in other areas of the world.