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Governor signs bill allowing restaurants to have dog dining areas

Restaurants will be allowed to set aside outside dining areas where customers can eat meals with their dogs.


Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday signed a bill to allow restaurants to have outdoor dining areas where pet owners may dine with their dogs. House Bill 235 was sponsored by state Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores.

McMillan said that this bill gives the restaurant owner the option of having an outdoor dining area where people who have their dogs with them to be served.

“That is why the restaurant association supports this,” McMillan said.

If a restaurant does not want to have a section where pet owners can bring their dogs, they are not required to.

Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, asked when the bill was in committee: “I love dogs, but sometimes they go to the bathroom, who is responsible then?”

“The dog owner is responsible,” McMillan replied.

McMillan said when the bill was on the House floor that young people today are not having children as they did in previous generations and instead they have dogs and they want their dogs to go places with them. Restaurants want to serve the growing dog-owning segment of the population.

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Under the terms of the bill, the owner of a food service establishment who wanted to do this would have to:

  • File for a waiver with the State Health Department stating they will adhere to the prescribed rules.
  • Have a separate outdoor entrance present where the pet dog can enter without going through the food service establishment to reach the outdoor dining area.
  • A prominent sign is displayed sufficient to put the public on notice that the designated outdoor dining area is available for the use of patrons with pet dogs.
  • A pet dog is not allowed on the chairs, benches, seats, or other fixtures in the outdoor dining area of the food service establishment.
  • The outdoor dining area is not used for food preparation or the storage of utensils.
  • The designated outdoor dining area where pet dogs are allowed is at least 12 feet away from any bar or area where beverages are prepared.
  • A food service establishment employee refills beverages from a pitcher or other container at the table in the outdoor dining area where pet dogs are allowed.
  • The outdoor dining area is well maintained, kept clean, and all surfaces that have been contaminated by pet dog excrement or other pet dog bodily fluids are properly cleaned and sanitized.
  • The pet dog is kept on a leash or confined in a pet carrier at all times and is kept under the control of the person possessing the pet dog.
  • The food service establishment ensures it is in compliance with all local ordinances related to sidewalks, public nuisances, and sanitation.

May 17 was the last day of the 2021 Alabama Legislative Session. The Legislature is expected to meet next in late November to take up redistricting and reapportionment.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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