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New bill to restrict pet’s access to restaurants

We’re watching a new proposed bill in the Florida Legislature that may impact your ability to take your dogs into restaurants.  HB 243 (which you can read here) has been proposed recently- and will be debated when the legislature resumes sessions in January of 2020.

The heart of the issue is an indoor/outdoor issue. This bill would prohibit dogs from even entering the interior of a restaurant. The specific wording seems to be overly restrictive: 

“In order to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the public, non service animals are prohibited from traveling through or remaining in the indoor portions of a public food service establishment or place of business”

We are concerned about the “traveling through” phrase here. This means that if a restaurant has an outdoor seating area that is only accessible through the main entrance- they cannot allow dogs to enter the establishment to gain access to the outdoor seating. We believe this to be overly restrictive.

We also find this proposed bill to be redundant. The state of Florida already has a law on the books permitting local municipalities to pass ordinances permitting pets in outdoor dining spaces. Local governments- whether they be city or county- have a rigorous permit/application process which needs to be followed in order to allow pets. We won’t go into all of the requirements- but if you’re interested to learn more- all of those details can be found here.

You may be wondering- what about breweries or brew pubs? As a small business, we love supporting other small businesses- and brew pubs are a great social outlet for our pet owners and pets alike. Even if a brew-pub doesn’t serve food- the rules still apply- as beer is food. Food- defined by state law (yes, it’s actually defined by

statute): 

  1. Articles used for food or drink for human consumption
  2. Chewing gum
  3. Articles used for components of any such article

It goes on and on… the chewing gum line makes me laugh, but I digress.

Please note, this bill has no impact on bonafide service animals. Service animals, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act are not affected by this proposed bill.

We will be keeping a close eye on this, as we believe that the bill is redundant- and may restrict small businesses from offering a welcoming environment to pets and pet owners. If you wish to weigh in on the matter, contact your representative in Tallahassee. You can find your elected officials on the Florida Legislature’s website here.

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