Following last week’s dustup over confusion that state health officials would begin enforcing a ban on pets at outdoor dining venues, the Division of Public Health’s (DPH) Office of Food Protection has issued revised guidance to restaurant and pet owners alike.
The document seeks to clarify the agency’s position on code enforcement, according to a spokesperson, while signaling the state’s intent to conduct a comprehensive review of pet-related dining policies by the end of 2019.
Importantly for restaurants and dog lovers, the DPH confirmed it will “not enforce the outdoor provision of the code until further discussions take place.”
The howling outcry was sparked when an August 9 Facebook post by the agency suggested an impending crackdown on pets in outdoor dining areas, which, although commonly practiced across the state, turns out to have been a rarely-enforced code violation. The post led to concern and confusion among restaurant owners, and pet owners quickly mobilized to change the code.
“This is a revision of a previously developed document, but the revisions made were largely to provide clarity to food establishment owners that while dogs are prohibited in outdoor dining spaces under the Food Code,” said DPH’s Jen Brestel. “Due to questions from food establishment owners, DPH wanted to issue clear guidance on the code, our enforcement plans, and plans for additional discussions regarding dogs at outdoor dining spaces.”
A Q&A in the document acknowledges that “while it is prohibited, the Division of Public Health (DPH) food safety inspection officers will not strictly enforce this provision of the Food Code until further discussions can take place. DPH will provide updated guidance by the end of 2019.”
In the meantime, DPH is encouraging restaurants to use “industry best practices” related to dogs at outdoor dining areas and reminds owners that “no dog should pass through any interior area of a restaurant.”
The guidance document further says restaurants should post clear signage that dogs may be present in outdoor areas and reiterated that dogs need to be leashed and well-behaved.
Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed to sit at the bar, so that old joke about the man who shot my paw won’t work in Delaware.