Dining with Man's Best Friend

Public Health, Restaurant Operations,
By Galen C. Baxter, REHS, Food Service Program Director at Georgia Department of Public Health

As Georgia strives to recognize changes in industry, usually driven by consumer demand, rules and regulations are updated to try and accommodate these trends. But as with all new things, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), which is tasked with protecting the lives of Georgia citizens and visitors, must take into consideration many factors before making decisions which could lead to increased risks of foodborne illnesses or other health hazards.

One example is the recent addition (2015) to the Georgia Food Service Rules and Regulations, Chapter 511-6-1, which allows food service establishments to offer an outdoor dining patio area where patrons can sit with their pet dogs. A recent survey by the American Pet Products Association shows that 48 percent of pets owned in the US are dogs. (1) The Georgia Food Service Program, under the Environmental Health Section of DPH, recognized that restaurants were losing out to a segment of the population who value Fido as a family member. After researching regulations in other states, primarily in western U.S., it was determined that with special provisions in place by the restaurant, and approval from the local health department, diners could bring their pooch along with them to enjoy a meal or beverage in an outdoor patio area at their establishment.
So, what are the special provisions that a restaurant must adhere to if a dog-friendly patio is part of its ambiance?

First, the restaurant must have a patio designed in such a way that patrons can access the area directly from the outside without having to walk into, or through, the indoor dining room. The restaurant must notify all potential patrons that dogs are allowed on the patio with their owners (verbally or through signs.)

​Second, the establishment must develop and maintain on site, written procedures that clearly outline how employees will be trained and monitored to ensure that they do not touch, pet or handle the dogs while working; how accidents will be immediately cleaned-up and where the clean-up materials are located; procedures for how employees will ensure the dogs are not fed while on the patio and the methods used to prevent dogs from coming into contact with serving dishes, utensils and tableware; procedures for how employees will ensure that the dogs do not go into non-designated areas, get on tables, chairs or other furnishings while at the establishment; and that the dogs remain on a leash and under the customer’s control at all times.

There have been a few inquiries as to whether a restaurant can have a special “dog menu” from which pet owners can order food for their dog at the same time they order their food, so that they can eat simultaneously. Unfortunately, because there is an increased chance for dogs to bite when they are eating (2), and are more likely to poop or vomit after eating (3, 4) DPH believes that this would increase the risk posed to the general public who visit the dining establishment and therefore created the food service rules to prohibit the feeding of dogs on the patio.

For more information, contact your local health department, or visit https://dph.georgia.gov/food-service, and click on the link for Rules, Documents and Forms to download a copy of the Georgia Food Service Rules and Regulations.

1. American Pet Products Association
2. American Veterinary Medical Association 
3. PetMd: Dog Constipation – Why it’s a Medical Emergency
4. PedMd: Vomiting in Dogs – Causes and Treatment