March 8, 2023

Following All the Right Pet-Friendly Restaurant Rules

Two-thirds of consumers call themselves “dog people” while one-third consider themselves “friends of felines.” Regardless of whether they have a dog or cat, however, most Americans consider their pets to be part of the family—and they like to bring them along when they dine, travel, and head to nature. If you have an existing restaurant, or you have just launched a new eatery, and you’d like to ensure it’s pet-friendly, ensure that your customers and staff are safe by adhering to the following pet-friendly restaurant rules and regulations.

Rules for restaurant pets

Pet-Friendly Restaurant Laws Vary According to State

The first step to complete if you wish to open a dog-friendly food establishment is to request the relevant laws for your state. Currently, only a few states allow dogs to enjoy outdoor dining (no states permit indoor dining). They are: California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Read the fine print, because some states (for instance, Florida) require restaurants to apply for a permit from local governments.

Regulations Can Be Very Specific

NYC Health indicates the numerous specific obligations that restaurant owners must accept. These include only allowing dogs to enter dining areas from outside, the placement of barriers so dogs cannot access people walking on the sidewalk, the preparation of all food and drink indoors, and the postage of specific signs. These signs must indicate that only service dogs are allowed in interiors, companion dogs are only allowed in designated outdoor areas, and that companion dogs must be licensed and vaccinated against rabies.

Service Dogs are Exempt

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, any certified dog must be allowed to enter a restaurant to accommodate its owner. However, there are certain guidelines that must be followed. For instance, the handler is solely responsible for the care and liability of the dog. Staff should be instructed not to pat or interact with the animal unless the owner permits them to do so. It can be very tempting to pat friendly pooches since therapy dog breeds are calm and very well-behaved. Just a few breeds acting as therapy dogs include Labradors, Poodles, French Bulldogs, King Charles Cavaliers, Pomeranians, Beagles, and Border Collies. In general, touching pets should be discouraged, since service staff touches plates, glasses, and other items and their hands should be germ-free.

Some Dogs May Be Excluded

The ability of a restaurant to accept dogs (or not) depends, to a great degree, on the infrastructure they have set up. For instance, in Maryland, the pertinent law stipulates that restaurant owners are responsible for choosing where the patio will be built and how big it will be. They also have the discretion to refuse entry to clients with dogs that are of a certain size or breed.

Restaurants are increasingly aiming to meet customer demands for pet-friendly eateries. However, the laws vary from state to state. If you are planning on welcoming dogs into your establishment, make sure to read the fine print to ace all the regulations from the word go.


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