Pet-Friendly Restaurants Guide

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­Heard about the latest pet-friendly restaurant in town? The one that features a separate menu for man's best friend?

Before you get Fido stoked about a big night out, we need to define what exactly a pet-friendly restaurant is. The term, it turns out, is a bit of an oxymoron. Yes, a pet-friendly restaurant will allow some pets to accompany their owners to the outside of a restaurant. However, they're not allowed past the entrance.


In reality, a pet-friendly restaurant is a restaurant that has an outside seating area, one that's not fully enclosed. The restaura­nt owner must specify that pets are allowed on the patio or deck area. But that's it. If the patio, balcony or deck can be accessed only by steering through the restaurant interior, leave Fido at home [source: Kain]. If you're not willing to sit outside, don't bother taking your pet out to dinner, unless you're in certain parts of Europe (notably France) or need assistance from a service animal, such as a guide dog.

­Why is this? While there is no federal law that re­stricts animals from restaurants, local health ordinances in the United States prohibit pets from restaurants. The only law pertaining to animals in restaurants is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is designed to provide people with disabilities equal access to public places, giving them the legal right to be accompanied by a service animal in all areas open to the general public [source: Kain].

So unless your disabilities demand assistance from an animal friend, you and Fido will be eating outside. What about your cockatoo, guinea pig, cat or pet ferret? Unless they're crated and quiet, don't even think about asking if they're allowed. In most cases, regulations covering pets and restaurants are specifically about dogs.

Read on to learn about restaurant pet rules.


Restaurant Pet Rules

Local and state health inspectors can -- and will -- fine restaurants for noncompli­ance with the health code. A geographic area's local laws may allow pets in outdoor dining areas, but it's ultimately the owner of the establishment who has the final say on whether pets are permitted on the premises.

Even if a given restaurant is not pet friendly, you may on occasion see a dog in the establishment, usually accompanied by certain customers (typically very good customers) of friends of the owner [source: Malby].


To keep obliging restaurants happy with their decisions to include pets, here are some etiquette rules you and your pet should follow when dining out:

  • Keep your animal leashed at all times.
  • No barking
  • No begging
  • No jumping
  • No eating off the table
  • No sitting on chairs, tables or benches
  • Do not enter the inside of the restaurant.
  • Current vaccination tags should be on pet's collar
  • Bring your own food dish and water bowl. Health codes prohibit pets from eating and drinking from restaurant dishes and glasses.
  • Get your pet to sit under or as close to the table base as possible to reduce the chances of your waiter tripping over your pet [source: Road and Travel Magazine, Colorado Restaurant Association].

Local ordinances will also determine how a restaurant handles pets. A St. Petersburg, Fla., ordinance requires that restaurants obtain a permit if they want to allow dogs to sit outside. A Florida "doggie dining law" requires restaurants to keep hand sanitizers on all tables where dogs are allowed [source: Konis].

Just how pet friendly an establishment is depends upon the owners. Some go out of their way to welcome pets by offering water and treats. Others have special events that are geared around pet owners, and even offer pet birthday parties.


Restaurant Pet Requirements

Pets are barred from restaurants principally because of behavioral and physical safety concerns. Pets are animals. They lap, they drool. Their table manners are negligible. They're known to shed, bark, growl and bite, even maim.

When the Denver Board of Environmental Health approved city regulations to allow dogs on patios, the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) advised its members against allowing pets in outdoor areas. The association stated, "The CRA believes that allowing dogs in customer areas poses risks for restaurant operators, their patrons and their employees" [source: CRA].


What about illness and disease? Laura Hungerford, a University of Maryland School of Medicine professor of epidemiology and doctor of veterinary medicine, says the risk of getting sick from an animal is much less than the chances of getting sick from another human [source: Malby].

Cleanliness seems to be the bigger issue. Imagine eating a meal while at a nearby table a dog is busy scratching fleas. There's also bathroom etiquette. Dogs are trained to do their business outside, and restaurants aren't in the business of cleaning up after animals. Nor do they want to expose their patrons to such sights while eating.

Sometimes one bad pet-related incident can make a restaurant owner revoke a pet-friendly policy. Even if you and Fido have frequented a local pub's outdoor patio, be sure to call before returning to see if owners still allow you and your furry friend to dine out together.

Because they require an outdoor seating area, pet-friendly restaurants are easier to find in more temperate climates. Florida and California have state and local laws that permit pets in outdoor restaurants and cafes. While there are about a dozen pet-friendly restaurants in Manhattan, the outdoor areas are limited to late spring, summer and early fall.

Also, be alert to regional variations. Different areas will have different levels of tolerance for animals. Dog owners have found places with outdoor seating in Baltimore, Md., much more tolerant of their pets than in touristy Annapolis, Md.[source: Malby].

To learn more, visit some of the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Apfel, Ira. "Collaring the Market: Restaurants That Retail to Rover Reap Rewards." Restaurants USA Magazine. (Jan. 5, 2009)
  • Baskas, Harriet. "Throwing the dogs some bones. Pet-friendly restaurants, hotels make traveling with critters easy." MSNBC. (Jan. 5, 2009)
  • Colorado Restaurant Association. "Denver: Pooches Permitted on Patios." (Jan. 5, 2009)
  • Kain, Tara and Len. "Doggie Dining - Making Sense of the Confusion."'s Newsletter, July 19, 2006. (Jan. 5, 2009)
  • Konis, Leonard. "Law: Doggie Dining Bill." (Jan. 5, 2009)
  • Malby, Elizabeth. "Dining@Large: Dog-Friendly Restaurants." Baltimore Sun, May 6, 2008. (Jan. 5, 2009)
  • Pet Friendly Travel. "Dog Friendly Restaurants." (Jan. 2, 2009)
  • Road and Travel Magazine. "Dining Out With Fido." (Jan. 2, 2009)