Should Dogs Be Allowed On Patios?

doguntitled1If you are a dog owner in Toronto, you will know that restaurant, bar and café owners do not allow any animals, including dogs, to be brought on to their patios owing to a fear that they will be fined and risk losing their license. Yet experts have confirmed that dogs are not a health hazard. In fact, birds present more of a health risk than dogs, and yet no one appears to have informed the pigeons to keep off the patios!

The relevant law is an Ontario regulation, Food Premises, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 562, enacted under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H-7. The regulation prohibits a dog from being in a room where food is, among other things, “served, sold or offered for sale”,  unless the animal is “service dog”:

59. Every operator of a food premise shall ensure that in respect of the food premise,…

(e)    every room where food is manufactured, prepared, processed, handled, served, displayed, stored, sold or offered for sale is kept free from,…

(ii) subject to section 60, live birds and animals;

60. (1)  Subclause 59 (e) (ii) does not apply to,

(a)    a service dog serving as a guide for a blind person or for a person with another medical disability who requires the use of a service dog, if the service dog is in an area of the food premise where food is served, sold or offered for sale;

(2)   A dog other than a guide dog for the blind is a service dog for the purposes of clause (1) (a) if,

(a)    it is readily apparent to an average person that the dog functions as a service dog for a person with a medical disability; or

(b)    the person who requires the dog can provide on request a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires a service dog. O. Reg. 74/04, s. 4 (2).

Although the term “premises” is defined in the Health Protection and Promotion Act to include both land and structures, the regulation requires only that rooms be kept free of animals; the term “room” (which would logically seemed be a subset of a “premises”) is not defined in the regulation.

It is debatable whether a “room” would actually include a patio. For instance, the online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term “room” as “a partitioned part of the inside of a building”. It appears, however, that Toronto’s Public Health Inspectors are nonetheless interpreting the regulation as extending to patios.

In European countries, it is not uncommon to see pets, not just on patios, but also in the restuarants themselves. Is the concern really about health? Or is it instead an accomodation for a certain percentage of the population who feel that dogs just shouldn’t be there?  If this is the case, is this an issue that should be regulated or should it instead be left up to the owners of the premises to decide whether to allow dogs on their patios?

For those who feel strongly that dogs should be allowed on patios in Toronto,  Urban Dog Toronto is sponsoring a petition to change the current law (or, at least, its current interpretation).

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