The outdoor patio at Mendocino Farms in Sherman Oaks, Calif., was full of families, groups of friends and three four-legged diners of varying sizes on Sunday. The site of doggies dining (or at least sitting under) outdoor restaurant tables is becoming more common in California; will soon be in New York, where a new law was enacted, and is part of a growing trend as more people want to enjoy dining alfresco with their best friend.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a longstanding code prohibiting live animals, except fish in tanks and service animals, in retail establishments where food is served. Most states follow the FDA code, but more states and cities are adopting their own health codes to allow dogs to accompany their owners (pet parents) to outdoor restaurants.
The New York law, which is effective immediately, allows canines to sit by their owners in outdoor seating sections of restaurants, provided they do not have to walk through the indoor sections or where food is prepared to get to the table, and the restaurant owner permits it. Along with easy access to the outdoor seats, a participating restaurant also must post signs indicating that pets are allowed. Additionally, the dogs must be on a leash or in a carrier and not sit on the furniture. Lastly, employees are prohibited from having direct contact with the animals while they are on duty.
The New York legislations follows the pet-friendly moves made in California; Florida; Austin, Texas; Alexandria, VA; and other jurisdictions that passed measures that override federal (and some local) health codes on the matter.
A memo that was part of the New York bill package suggested that the prohibition of dogs in health codes was for health reasons. It argued that a 2013 study on “Public health implications of animals in retail outlets” in the Journal of Environmental Health found the overall public health risk of pet dogs in outdoor dining area to be very low provided safety, hygiene and sanitation practices are enforced.
California has been pet-friendly for about 20 years, with similar restrictions as NY regarding not walking through the inside of a restaurant to get to the outdoor tables. To avoid confusion, the California statute also specifically forbids counties or cities from making these codes stricter. Restaurant owners have the option to forbid dogs, but the choice is theirs.
Like many other states, Florida has a state code that follows the FDA one and indicates that “animals are not allowed on the premises of a food establishment.” However, the state gave local jurisdictions the option to establish variances, which has encouraged more areas to permit dogs. In Alexandria and Austin, local health departments issued their own variances.
While outdoor dining season is over in some areas as the winter approaches, expect to see some happy dogs celebrating the new NY law by accompanying their two-legged pals while weather permits. Look this coming weekend for dogs dining with their people at outdoor restaurants in California, NY and other areas that permit four-legged best friends.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
Yahoo News: Dogs now allowed in NY restaurants. What are the rules?
USA Today: It’s legal to grab dinner with your dog in New York
DogFriendly.com: Doggie Dining – Making Sense of the Confusion
Photo by Dyanne Weiss