Fact Finders: Dining out with dogs

FDA says it’s safe to bring dogs to restaurants with outdoor seating
Fact Finders: Dining out with dogs
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 5:49 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 25, 2023 at 5:51 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The FDA says it’s fine for Fido to join you for dinner if you’re eating outside at a pet-friendly restaurant. The Food and Drug Administration is out with new guidance saying it’s safe for dogs to join their human owners for outdoor dining.

As more people pushed to bring their dogs with them to eat on the patio during the pandemic, things got a little confusing. In some cities, the battle over dogs and outdoor dining got nasty. Not so much in a city like Tucson, just named by “Forbes” as the the best U.S. city for pets. We’re known for more than 200 dog-friendly outdoor eateries.

The big takeaway is this: for establishments that have the proper outdoor dining permits and follow appropriate protocols, the FDA says dogs do not pose a sanitation risk.

Dogs still should not go inside restaurants, unless they are service dogs. There’s no exception for emotional support dogs. 23 states have laws that allow patrons to bring dogs to outdoor dining, but Arizona isn’t one of them. The issue is up to local governments. In Pima County, a food establishment must have a permit before animals, other than service animals, are allowed. This update does not mean dogs are now allowed everywhere, anytime. State and local rules take precedence - and ultimately, it’s up to the restaurant.

Also part of the revised FDA Food Code, restaurants that allow dogs outside cannot discriminate based on breed. Cats and other pets are still off limits, unless they’re service animals.

Generally speaking, in Arizona, dogs must be kept on leash and under control, and workers aren’t supposed to pet them. Food, dishware, and utensils are off limits for dogs. They can use disposable single service containers for food or water provided.

The FDA still has not addressed emotional support animals. While service dogs generally are allowed in restaurants, emotional support dogs generally are not, because they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. So if a restaurant does not allow dogs, it’s still up to them - whether your support dog can join you.

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