Update: Outdoor Doggy Dining Gets Reprieve

“Lyla” at Taco Tuesday at Bellefonte Brewing

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has issued a statement clarifying a Facebook post from the agency last week that ignited a howling reaction among pet owners who enjoy wolfing down meals at restaurants with their best friends.

As reported here yesterday, the DPH post was interpreted by many as a warning to restaurants and pet owners alike who had grown accustomed to dining al fresco at First State eateries that permitted pooches. 

Wilmington Brew Works shared this post on Instagram in June

The practice is actually prohibited by the Delaware Food Code, and the DPH statement reiterated that with the exception of special circumstances (service dogs), no animals are allowed in any Delaware restaurant – both indoors and outdoor patio or deck dining. The post suggested that enforcement of the code might be stepped up going forward.  

In fact, last week, four days after their original post on Facebook, DPH explained what seemed to be their new position and the reasons behind their intention to now enforce the code. The August 6th Facebook post said:

While DPH recognizes concerns food establishments and patrons may have about this, this is not a recent update to the food code, and DPH is concerned about allowing animals in outdoor service areas.

Animals can transmit pathogens to humans through direct and/or indirect contamination of food and food-contact surfaces. Animals shed hair continuously and may deposit liquid or fecal waste, creating the need for vigilance and more frequent and rigorous cleaning efforts. Additionally, unsocialized animals may present a bite risk to other patrons. Internal discussions are taking place regarding the policy.

The Delaware Division of Public Health shared a post on Facebook last week that generated thousands of responses

While the DPH statement acknowledged they had not consistently enforced code violations specific to outdoor dining venues, the takeaway for pet lovers was that would be changing, and many began organizing to fight the regulation and enforcement.

Trends show outdoor dining with dogs has become increasingly popular across the country, with several states recently revising code regulations to allow for the practice.

 

Following media coverage by TSD and others, the DPH clarified their position yesterday, telling us that they have no intention of cracking down on outdoor pet dining. A representative said that the Facebook post was not meant to indicate that DPH was changing their current practice but that it did open up an opportunity to look at the issue further. 

The agency acknowledged the initial post had caused confusion and pledged to communicate any review of the code more effectively.  “To date,” the agency explained, “inspectors have not strictly enforced the outdoor portion of the food code, and will continue that practice until discussions around the policies associated with this issue have taken place.”

People visiting the seasonal outdoor beer garden at Constitution Yards enjoying bringing their canines with them

The DPH also explained that their initial statement reiterating current policy stemmed from a complaint received about a non-service animal inside a restaurant. 

Both doggy dining fanatics and those who aren’t so crazy about seeing chow hounds and their slobber at a nearby table have weighed in across social media on the controversy.

 

The full text of the DPH statement follows:

“While DPH recognizes concerns food establishments and patrons may have about this issue, this is not a recent update to the food code. The Delaware Food Code prohibits pets – with the exception of service animals –  in food establishments, which include outdoor service areas. To date, inspectors have not strictly enforced the outdoor portion of the food code and will continue that practice until discussions around the policies associated with this issue have taken place.

Food establishment owners should be aware of the potential health and safety risks of allowing animals in the outdoor areas of their establishments. Animals can transmit pathogens to humans through direct and/or indirect contamination of food and food-contact surfaces. Animals shed hair continuously and may deposit liquid or fecal waste, creating the need for vigilance and more frequent and rigorous cleaning efforts. Additionally, un-socialized animals may present a bite risk to other patrons.

DPH staff have already been engaged in a comprehensive review of the food code to identify revisions needed to remain consistent with federal guidelines and public health best practices.

The process for updating agency regulations is available from the Delaware Registrar of Regulations: http://regulations.delaware.gov/AdminCode/title29/101.shtml#TopOfPage

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