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Dining out with dogs: A good thing for restaurants and patrons?

Joe Armstrong
County of Los Angeles Public Health
Fred the dog sits outside the Old Western Saloon near San Francisco, California.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

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It's no secret that Americans love their dogs (as of 2012, there are approximately 78.2-million dogs with owners in the United States).

Americans also love to go out to eat — some estimates say Americans eat four or five meals per week at restaurants or other commercial food establishments. Now diners with dogs in Los Angeles County will be able to bring their four-legged companions along when they visit their favorite restaurants, provided the restaurant has a patio, of course.

A new rule change, announced Monday, will allow restaurants to decide whether to allow dogs on their patios — dogs are still prohibited from entering indoor dining rooms.

"Though it will be up to the restaurant's discretion whether to allow dogs in its outdoor eating area, this new policy is a benefit to both small businesses and the community," said Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe, in a statement. "This policy will give restaurant owners an opportunity to attract new business and to better serve their two-legged and four-legged patrons."

Some restaurant managers may designate certain dog-friendly areas to avoid problems with patrons who may be allergic or afraid of dogs.

"Our number-one job is the protect the health of the population," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "Dogs need to be well-behaved and on a leash. This is a change who's time has come and we're really happy to announce it."

The old guidelines allowed dogs in outdoor seating areas, but only when there wasn’t a fence around the al fresco dining area. Municipalities with their own health departments, including Pasadena, Long Beach and Vernon, have their own statues and are exempt from the new guidelines.

Restaurant managers welcoming dogs onto their patios must follow these rules:

- A separate entrance is present where pets do not enter through the food establishment to reach the outdoor dining area.

- No food preparation shall be allowed at the outdoor dining area including the dispensing/mixing of drinks and ice.

- Customer multi-use or reusable utensils such as plates, silverware, glasses and bowls shall not be stored, displayed or pre-set at the outdoor dining area.

- Food and water served/provided to pets shall only be in single use disposable containers.

- Employee shall be prohibited from having direct contact with pets while on duty.

- Pets shall not be allowed on chairs, seats, benches, and tables.

- The outdoor dining area shall be maintained clean.

- In cases of excrement or other bodily fluids (urine, saliva, vomit), employee shall immediately clean and sanitize the affected areas.

- The outdoor dining area shall not be fully enclosed (a fully enclosed dining area shall be considered to be part of the interior area of the facility).

- Business operators are obligated to follow local city ordinances related to sidewalk, public nuisance, and sanitation issues.


One could argue that dogs are better-behaved than some humans at restaurants, so why has Fido been traditionally prohibited?

Would you be more or less likely to patronize a restaurant that allowed dogs?

What are some etiquette guidelines you'd like dog owners to follow when bringing their pets to restaurant patios?


Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

Michael Chill, animal trainer and behaviorist; author, Puppybook; columnist, the Animal Press

Dr. Matthew Smith, veterinarian, The Amanda Foundation, a nonprofit organization that rescues dogs and cats