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Dining Goes to the Dogs: Policy Permits Pooches on Patios

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A policy change affecting much of Los Angeles County is being implemented, which means restaurants are now able to decide if they want to allow patrons to bring their dogs into outdoor eating areas.

"This new policy has been a long time coming for the residents of Los Angeles County. Though it will be up to the restaurant's discretion whether to allow dogs in its outdoor eating area, this new policy is a benefit to both small businesses and the community," said Don Knabe, Supervisor, Fourth District. "This policy will give restaurant owners an opportunity to attract new business and to better serve their two-legged and four-legged patrons."

The change in policy was spearheaded by many dog owners and restaurateurs, and guidelines have been established by the county's office of Public Health that will "protect food safety and ensure safety for all patrons," says Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer.

Here are the guidelines for the allowance of pets in outdoor dining areas:

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Pet dogs may be allowed to enter the exterior areas of a food facility's outdoor dinning area if the following requirements are met: * A separate entrance is present where pets do not enter through the food establishment to reach the outdoor dining area.

* No food preparation shall be allowed at the outdoor dining area including the dispensing/mixing of drinks and ice.

* Customer multi-use or reusable utensils such as plates, silverware, glasses and bowls shall not be stored, displayed or pre-set at the outdoor dining area.

* Food and water served/provided to pets shall only be in single use disposable containers.

* Employee shall be prohibited from having direct contact with pets while on duty.

* Pets shall not be allowed on chairs, seats, benches, and tables.

* The outdoor dining area shall be maintained clean.

* In cases of excrement or other bodily fluids (urine, saliva, vomit), employee shall immediately clean and sanitize the affected areas.

* The outdoor dining area shall not be fully enclosed (a fully enclosed dining area shall be considered to be part of the interior area of the facility).

Business operators are obligated to follow local city ordinances related to sidewalk, public nuisance, and sanitation issues.

The new policy goes into effect immediately in Los Angeles County restaurants that are inspected by Public Health; areas not subject to this policy are Pasadena, Long Beach and Vernon.