New policy allowing dogs on restaurant patios takes effect

New policy allowing dogs on restaurant patios takes effect
Restaurants can introduce designated outdoor dog-friendly areas that must meet certain requirements. (Source: Pixabay)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The Mississippi State Department of Health announced a new policy taking effect Friday that would allow people to dine with their pets at restaurants under certain conditions.

Under the policy, restaurants must have a separate outside entrance into a designated outdoor dog-friendly area that includes signage for the area in order to allow dogs.

“MSDH wants to support local businesses in their efforts to best accommodate their clientele. We’ve looked at other southern states – including Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina – and have modeled our policy after theirs,” said Jim Craig, MSDH Senior Deputy and Director of Health Protection. “We assessed the health risks and identified the types of outdoor dining settings that would present low, minimal or no risk to the public.”

The restaurant and and patrons must meet certain requirements to ensure public safety and health. Dogs cannot go inside the restaurant or non-designated areas outside, though service dogs are allowed inside. Restaurants must have disposable dishes and utensils in the dog-friendly area.

Dog owners must also keep their dog on a leash and under control, and restaurant employees cannot touch or handle the pet. If the pet owner fails to control their dog or it jeopardizes the health or safety of the public, the restaurant can refuse service.

“If the restaurant agrees to the policy and requirements are met, it can apply for a variance to the MSDH Food Code to allow pet dogs. Once we review the application and receive the $165 inspection fee, we will inspect the facility to ensure the designated area meets food safety requirements. The restaurant will be inspected at least twice a year if granted the dog-friendly variance,” said Craig.

You can view the details of the new policy here.

“It’s important for restaurants planning to provide this option to first check with local and county ordinances to ensure that dog-friendly restaurants are not otherwise prohibited in their area,” said Craig. “We look forward to working with any restaurant interested in adopting this new policy at its facility. There is no reason why we can’t adapt to the changing landscape of restaurant trends. We just need to make sure that the steps are in place to properly do so.”

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