Allowing dogs into restaurants continues to feed debate in the US. Some cities (even those that were previously rather dog-friendly) are banning dogs from restaurants, much to the chagrin of some restaurants that have catered to pets and pet owners. At the same time, some businesses in other areas are trying to attract pet-owning clientele. I don’t imagine there’s going to be a consistent policy any time soon, and rules will probably vary with the whims of politicians and creativity of restaurateurs. There certainly are public health concerns with pets in restaurants, but they are also quite manageable with a few logical, practical rules and common sense. The question is will people (restaurant staff and pet owners) actually do what needs to be done to reduce the risks? We know that food safety violations are already way too common in restaurants, so  just making up a few rules and expecting people will follow them is not adequate.

Should dogs be allowed in restaurants? I don’t know. I can argue either way. I think having dogs on patios would be better than giving them free range of the restaurant. That makes it easier to keep them away from people that don’t want to dine with them. People that are allergic, afraid or otherwise averse to dogs could request a seat in the main restaurant and know that no dogs would be present. It also creates a more contained area that can be addressed if a problem occurs. I wouldn’t be bothered by having a dog at a table next to mine (although it’s understandable that some people would, especially those with allergies or a fear of dogs). I would have an issue with a dog wandering around, tripping people that walk by, barking incessantly, being petted by a server who was going to handling my food, or pooping on the floor. All of those a certainly possible.

Do we need rules if dogs are allowed in restaurants? Absolutely. Rules need to be clear and outline the responsibilities of restaurants and dog owners. Things such as no contact with pets by servers, maintaining constant control of dogs (i.e. always on a short leash), exclusion of sick animals and keeping dogs on the floor need to be in writing and enforced. There also need to be contingency plans for possible events such as a dog having diarrhea in the restaurant.

On a related note, the picture above is from a pizza restaurant in Dresden, Ontario, that I was in the other day. I’m not sure whether this sign means that I have to take my dog inside to get served, or whether I must leave my dog, shirt and shoes outside to get served.

A good commentary on dogs in restaurants by Doug Powell and Amy Hubbell of Barfblog can be found by clicking here.