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Dog photoDogs on Patios
Variances will allow dogs in outdoor dining areas

As warmer weather arrives, it's a good time to review the rules regarding welcoming dogs to the outside seating area of your restaurant.

The Department of Health Services recently announced that they will now allow dogs in outside seating areas of restaurants with an approved variance.

While the Food Code states that animals are prohibited on food establishment premises (with the exception of service animals), Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has set up guidelines to allow dogs (accompanied and controlled by their owner) in outside seating areas of a food establishment premise.

The subject has been debated and after reviewing scientific studies and considering the safety of patrons and the responsibilities of owners/operators, the Department will consider individual variances submitted by restaurants for approval.

The following requirements must be included in each owner/operator's variance submittal and if approved shall be strictly followed:

  • Applies to dogs only.

  • Applies to the exterior areas of outdoor dining of a restaurant only. Dogs are not allowed in the interior portions of the restaurant.

  • 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 from the restaurant shall not be served to pets on the exterior portions of the outdoor dining areas of a restaurant. However, food provided by the dog owner for consumption by the dog on the premise of the restaurant shall be provided in single-use disposable containers and/or water provided by the restaurant shall be provided in single-use disposable containers.

  • Employees shall be prohibited from having direct contact with pets while on duty.

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

  • The exterior areas of outdoor dining areas of a restaurant shall be maintained clean at all times.

  • In cases where excrement or other bodily fluids (urine, saliva, and vomit) are deposited, an employee shall immediately clean and sanitize the affected areas.

Contact your inspector for information on submitting a variance.

If you are considering requesting a variance, WRA suggests you contact your insurance company to find out if they have any restrictions or concerns.

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Wisconsin Restaurant Association • 2801 Fish Hatchery Rd. • Madison, WI 53713 • Tel: 608.270.9950 • Toll Free: 800.589.3211 • FAX: 608.270.9960