States That Allow Dogs in Restaurants (Full Breakdown) 

Although no state can legally allow dogs into the indoor areas of a restaurant (unless the animal is classified as a service dog), as for outdoor dining, that’s a whole different ball of wax. Which states have laws that permit dogs to dine outdoors with their human companions?

These states allow dogs to dine in restaurants:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee 
  • Texas
  • Virginia

If you want to learn more about these great states that permit dogs to have an outdoor patio dining experience, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll go over the rules enacted by each of the states above so that if you live and work in one of them, you’ll be on the right side of the law with your dog-friendly restaurant!

These 12 States Allow Dogs to Enjoy Outdoor Dining

California

Did you know that California attracts the most tourists of any state in the country? It’s a sunny beach state known for its gorgeous outdoor vistas, so it’s unsurprising that the state enacted a law that allows dogs to enjoy more time outdoors when dining on restaurant patios.

According to a writeup from pet resource Citizen Canine about California’s doggy dining law, if a restaurant has outdoor patio dining, then patrons can bring their dogs. 

However, the entrance to the patio must be separate from the normal entrance into the building. 

Dogs cannot use chairs or tables, and they are never allowed in the restaurant.

Florida

Do you want to grant people the opportunity to enjoy a nice outdoor meal with their dogs in the sunny, balmy state of Florida? Let’s see what the law says. 

The name of the law in full is West's Florida Statutes Annotated. Title XXXIII. Regulation of Trade, Commerce, Investments, and Solicitations (Chapters 494-560). Chapter 509. Lodging and Food Service Establishments; Membership Campgrounds. Part I. Public Lodging and Public Food Service Establishments. 509.233. Public food service establishment requirements; local exemption for dogs in designated outdoor portions.

Whew! So let’s look at the pertinent sections, shall we?

In Section (3) Limitations on exemption; permit requirements. – (a), the law reads, “Any local exemption procedure adopted pursuant to this section shall only provide a variance to those portions of the currently adopted Food and Drug Administration Food Code in order to allow patrons’ dogs within certain designated outdoor portions of public food service establishments.”

In (3) (b), it’s mentioned that all restaurants that wish to allow dogs to dine outdoors must “apply for and receive a permit from the governing body of the local government.” You have to do this before you permit any dogs to dine outside. 

Further, (3) (c) outlines all the rules that your restaurant must follow once you allow dogs onto the premises. The rules are as follows:

  • Your staff must always wash their hands after touching or petting a dog. 
  • Employees cannot touch a dog when handling beverages, food, and tableware. 
  • Customers must be told to wash their hands before they eat. 
  • Your restaurant must have waterless hand sanitizer at each table outdoors.
  • Dogs must be leashed up at all times and cannot be near paper products, linens, tableware, utensils, and serving dishes.
  • Dogs cannot sit on furnishings, including tables and chairs.
  • Staff must sanitize the chairs and tables after the customer with the dog leaves. 
  • Dog waste cannot be left to linger and must be addressed right away. 
  • All rules for outdoor doggy dining must be posted inside and outside of the restaurant. 
  • Dogs are not allowed into the restaurant.

Illinois

Illinois has had a law in effect about outdoor dining with dogs since 2008. It’s known as West's Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated. Chapter 65. Municipalities. Act 5. Illinois Municipal Code. Article 11. Corporate Powers and Functions. Public Health, Safety and Welfare. Health Regulations. Division 20. Food, Water, Disease, Other Regulations. 5/11-20-14. Companion dogs; restaurants

In §11-20-14. Companion dogs; restaurants, the law reads that, “Notwithstanding any other prohibition to the contrary, a municipality with a population of 1,000,000 or more may, by ordinance, authorize the presence of companion dogs in outdoor areas of restaurants where food is served, if the ordinance provides for adequate controls to ensure compliance with the Illinois Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act, the Sanitary Food Preparation Act, and any other applicable statutes and ordinances.”

Of course, there do exist exceptions, including:

  • Companion dogs are not allowed in the restaurant.
  • The restaurant can refuse to serve a customer if that customer cannot control their dog or if the dog is “behaving in a manner that compromises or threatens to compromise the health or safety of any person present in the restaurant, including, but not limited to, violations and potential violations of any applicable health code or other statute or ordinance.”

Maryland

Over on the East Coast, outdoor doggy dining on patios is becoming popular as well. Maryland has a law on the topic known as West's Annotated Code of Maryland. Health--General. Title 21. Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. Subtitle 3. Food Establishments. Part I. Definitions; General Provisions. § 21-304.2. Restaurant patrons with dogs

The law states that, “A restaurant with an outdoor dining area may allow a patron’s dog to accompany the patron in the outdoor dining area during the hours designated by the owner of the restaurant.”

As the restaurant owner, you have to contact the local health department by written letter 30 days or sooner before you let dogs on the premises. 

Further, you’re responsible for selecting where the patio will be built and how big it will be as well as which dogs are allowed by factors such as size or breed. 

You can eject certain customers from the restaurant or bar their entry. 

You also must have a typed notice in a visible spot in your restaurant mentioning that dogs are allowed. The sign must be permanently installed and easily visible from at least eight feet away. 

When customers bring their dogs to the restaurant, Maryland law expects them to behave accordingly:

  • The customer is liable for damages their dog causes to either someone else or to the restaurant itself. 
  • They must be an adult who can control their dog.
  • They can never leave the dog unattended. 
  • They must keep their dog on a leash the entire time they’re there.
  • They cannot allow their dog inside the restaurant. 

Minnesota

When the weather gets nice in Minnesota, people congregate with their dogs to dine outdoors at a restaurant. That is permitted in this state per Minnesota Statutes Annotated. Health (Ch. 144-159). Chapter 157. Food, Beverage, and Lodging Establishments. 157.175. Dogs; outdoor food and beverage service establishments

Let’s take a closer look at which rules are in effect. 

According to Subdivision 2. Dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs., “The ordinance must prohibit dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs, as defined in section 347.50, from accompanying patrons to food and beverage establishments.”

That said, dogs are not banned from outdoor dining outright, only certain canines. 

Restaurant owners must get a permit and then can allow dogs to eat outside. Customers and staff need to obey these rules:

  • Dog waste must be cleaned by restaurant staff immediately and then they must sanitize the area.
  • Dogs cannot go on tables or chairs.
  • Dogs must be leashed up the entire time and kept under control. 
  • Employees must keep the dogs away from linens, utensils, paper products, tableware, and serving products. 
  • Employees cannot handle, pet, or touch dogs.

New Mexico

In 2011, New Mexico passed a law allowing dogs to dine with people on outdoor restaurant patios as part of the Food Service Sanitation Act. 

Under the act, employees of the restaurant are required to clean pet waste accidents as they happen and then sanitize the area afterward. They also must wash their hands after handling, petting, or touching a dog.

Customers must keep their dogs off furnishings and away from the inside of the restaurant. The dog must be leashed up at all times. 

The restaurant itself must post signage about allowing dogs to dine outdoors.

New York

New York is estimated to have well over 20,000 restaurants, and now some of them are welcoming dogs to dine outdoors on the patio. 

According to this fact sheet on the law, here are the rules:

  • Dogs cannot go in the restaurant. 
  • The restaurant needs barriers to prevent people walking on the sidewalk from getting too close to people dining on the patio.
  • All utensil storage and food preparation must be done indoors.
  • The restaurant must post a sign stating that companion animals can eat outdoors and that service animals are allowed indoors.

Ohio

In 2018, Ohio passed House Bill 263, which now allows dogs to dine outdoors on restaurant patios with their human companions. 

Most of the same rules as in the other states apply, such as dogs are not allowed inside the restaurant and the customer who brings the dog is expected to control it.

Interestingly, for a dog to dine outdoors in Ohio, it must be vaccinated.

Rhode Island

Bouncing back to the East Coast now, Rhode Island has its own law about dogs dining outdoors known as West's General Laws of Rhode Island Annotated. Title 21. Food and Drugs. Chapter 27. Sanitation in Food Establishments. § 21-27-12. Outdoor dining--Dogs permitted. 

The customer bringing the dog is liable for damages, and they must always keep the dog supervised. The dog must always be leashed up and cannot go inside the restaurant at any point for any reason.

Restaurant owners, under Rhode Island law, are allowed to design the parameters of the outdoor dining area and can refuse customers trying to bring a dog onto the premises at their discretion. 

They also must have signage displaying the outdoor dining change “in a typeface that is large enough to be easily legible to the average person and is in a location that is plainly visible to the patrons of the restaurant.”

Tennessee

Tennessee is one of two southern states that encourages dogs to dine outdoors. Deep within the West's Tennessee Code Annotated. Title 44. Animals and Animal Husbandry. Chapter 8. Fences and Confinement; Chapter 17. Dogs and Cats. Title 70. Wildlife Resources. law is a section on the topic.

That section is § 6-54-135. Admittance of dogs in outdoor restaurant dining areas; ordinance; restrictions. 

The rule reads in full, “Notwithstanding any other prohibition to the contrary, certain jurisdictions, as provided in subsection (c), may, by ordinance or resolution, authorize the presence of pet dogs in outdoor dining areas of restaurants, if the ordinance provides for adequate controls to ensure compliance with the Tennessee Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, compiled in title 53, chapter 1, and any other applicable statutes and ordinances.”

The restrictions on outdoor doggy dining are as follows:

  • Dogs are not allowed into the restaurant while entering the outdoor portion of the restaurant or at any other time.
  • The restaurant owner must post a sign informing customers and employees of the rules.
  • When a dog has an accident, it must be cleaned up right away and then the area must be sanitized. Restaurant staff must have a sanitizing kit that’s kept near the outdoor patio.
  • Dogs cannot use furnishings such as tables or chairs.
  • Customers must keep their dogs leashed up.
  • Employees cannot let dogs near utensils, linens, serving dishes, tableware, or paper products.
  • All employees must wash their hands if they touch a dog, and they cannot touch a dog if they’re handling food and beverages as well as tableware. 
  • If a customer cannot control their dog, the restaurant owner or staff does have the right to kick the customer out.
  • Dogs can never be near areas where food is prepared.

Texas

Texas is the other southern state to permit dogs to dine outdoors in restaurants per the Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated. Health and Safety Code. Title 6. Food, Drugs, Alcohol, and Hazardous Substances. Subtitle A. Food and Drug Health Regulations. Chapter 437. Regulation of Food Service Establishments, Retail Food Stores, Mobile Food Units, and Roadside Food Vendors. § 437.025. Requirements for Dogs in Outdoor Dining Areas; Municipal Preemption law.

Passed in 2019, the law requires restaurant owners to post “a sign in a conspicuous location in the area stating that dogs are permitted.” 

Dogs cannot enter the indoor portion of the restaurant, they must be leashed up at all times, they cannot sit on furnishings, and they cannot go near where food is being prepared.

Virginia

Last but certainly not least, we have Virginia’s West's Annotated Code of Virginia. Title 3.2. Agriculture, Animal Care, and Food. Subtitle IV. Food and Drink; Weights and Measures. Chapter 51. Food and Drink. Article 2. Sanitary Requirements. § 3.2-5115. Animals.

Here is the pertinent section of the law for your perusal: “No animal shall be permitted in any area used for the manufacture or storage of food products. A guard or guide animal may be allowed in some areas if the presence of the animal is unlikely to result in contamination of food, food contact surfaces, or food packaging materials. 

Additionally, a dog may be allowed within a designated area inside or on the premises of, except in any area used for the manufacture of food products, a distillery, winery, farm winery, brewery, or limited brewery licensed pursuant to § 4.1-206-1.” 

Conclusion

There you have it, 12 states that allow dogs to dine outdoors on restaurant patios. States such as South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia have regulations but not laws, but perhaps those regulations could become laws someday.

Then even more states would allow the wonder that is dining outside with man’s best friend!

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