Dogs indoors in pubs

I'm investigating whether the current laws excluding dogs from pubs should change to give the owners of pubs the right to decide whether dogs are allowed into indoor areas. 

What do you think? Let us know what you think about dogs in pubs here

Here's some background information:

What’s the situation with dogs in pubs at the moment?

Having a drink with your dog has long been a feature of life in Balmain. Several local pubs, such as the London Hotel, have always welcomed well behaved dogs along with their owners, and the presence of dogs is a much loved part of these pubs’ unique atmosphere.

Recently, however, local residents claim council officials have visited puts and let owners know there will be a $600 fine for bringing dogs inside pubs.1

The Inner West Council has stated that they are simply enforcing the NSW food authority guidelines and the provisions of the Food Act, which prohibits dogs in indoor area where food or beverages are served.

Many believe that there’s a strong argument for changing these restrictive laws to allow dogs to accompany their owners to a pub as they do in the UK and in many parts of Europe.

In our local Inner West area and in many country regions, dogs are part of the community and accompany their owners everywhere. Being able to bring dogs into the local pub would enhance the quality of life not only for dog owners, but for dogs too.

A 2015 La Trobe University study surveyed more than 2,300 Victorians and found 63 per cent of dogs were not walked daily and many pets were left alone for long periods of the day.

The study's lead researcher Dr Tiffany Howell agreed with Queensland RSCPA that Australia was restrictive compared to other parts of the world.

She said that only 26 per cent of people took their dog on "an outing" once per day, and 17 per cent did it less than once per week.

RSPCA Queensland spokesman Michael Beatty said compared to overseas, it was hard for Australians to spend time nurturing their pets.

"In England or Scotland or New York [for example] they are always getting exercise because they go everywhere with their owner," he said.

"In Australia they can't go everywhere with their owner, like a pub ... They can in Europe and most parts of America and the UK."

What’s the law in NSW?

Section 14(1)(b) of the Companion Animals Act 1988 2 provides that dogs (other than police dogs, assistance animals and corrective services dogs1) are prohibited in:

Food preparation/consumption areas (meaning any public place, or part of a public place, that is within 10 metres of any apparatus provided in that public place or part for the preparation of food for human consumption or for the consumption of food by humans).

Additionally, s 14A(1) states the “relevant legal restrictions” (specifically, s 14(1)(b) of the Companion Animals Act 1998, the Food Act 2003 and the Food Standards Code) do not prohibit a dog (other than a dangerous, menacing or restricted dog) from being in an outdoor dining area if:

(a) the dog is under the effective control of some competent person and is restrained by means of an adequate chain, cord or leash that is attached to the dog, and

(b) the person does not feed the dog or permit the dog to be fed, and

(c) the dog is kept on the ground.

What’s the Commonwealth law on dogs in pubs?

Standard 3.2.2 - Food Safety Practices and General Requirements cl 24(1)(a) of the Food Standards Code (administered under the Food Act by Food Standards Australia New Zealand) provides that a food business must not permit a dog (other than an assistance dog) in areas in which food is ‘handled’. The ‘handling’ of food is defined to include ‘serving’.

The Food Standards Code was amended in 2013 to allow for dogs in outdoor areas. FSANZ prepared a proposal to amend clause 24 (Animal and pests) of Standard 3.2.2 to remove a restriction on the presence of companion dogs in outdoor dining areas operated by food businesses. Now under cl 24(3) a food business may permit a dog to be present in an outdoor dining area.

The legal definition of food includes drink. Hence, a pub where only drinks are served is still legally considered to be a food business. 

Is there a health risk in having dogs in pubs?

A comprehensive risk assessment3 was prepared by Food Standards Australia New Zealand as a supporting document for the 2013 change in Commonwealth legislation that allowed dogs into outdoor dining areas.

Here are some extracts from this risk assessment:

Situations where human illness has been caused by consumption of food contaminated by pathogens originating from an infected dog are most likely rare and no reports have been identified in a literature scan

Food hygiene and safety regulations in most jurisdictions include basic measures to restrict the movement of companion dogs in outdoor dining areas such that food prepared and/or served by food businesses would not come into direct contact with companion dogs or dog faeces. It is therefore considered that transmission of pathogens by companion dogs in outdoor dining areas to consumers … is unlikely.

The overall level of food safety risk arising from the presence of companion dogs in such settings is expected to be very low to negligible…

Adherence to good hygienic practices in food preparation and service, maintenance of cleanliness, and proper pest control by food businesses should contribute to the minimisation of any potential risk of foodborne transmission of pathogens potentially carried by companion dogs in outdoor dining areas…

Since dogs in outdoor dining areas pose almost no threat to food safety or health, it’s hard to see why simply being indoors would substantially increase the risk to humans from dogs’ presence. If anything, since dogs are house trained, the already negligible risk of contact with dog faeces would be lessened still further.

What’s the situation with dogs in pubs in the United Kingdom and Europe?

Australia is regarded as one of the strictest nations when it comes to accessibility for companion animals.

Dog-owners in many European countries are free to take their pets inside shops, cafes, restaurants and onto public transport.

Dogs are allowed in indoor dining areas in the UK. The only legal obligation on the owner is to make sure there is no risk of contamination and that all food preparation areas are up to specified hygiene standards.

The relevant UK national law (a European Commission regulation) states4:

4. Adequate procedures are to be in place to control pests. Adequate procedures are also to be in place to prevent domestic animals from having access to places where food is prepared, handled or stored (or, where the competent authority so permits in special cases, to prevent such access from resulting in contamination).

The law does not specify excluding animals from areas where food is ‘served’.

Food businesses are responsible to ensure their own food safety management procedures identify and control risks to food hygiene such as having adequate procedures in place to prevent domestic animals from having access to places where food is prepared, handled and, or stored. The Local Authority is the competent enforcement authority for food businesses and they should be satisfied that the food business has adequate controls in place to prevent the risk of contamination.

Whether or not to allow a pet dog into the public areas of a food business is a matter for the individual food business operator to decide. Some businesses may have a “no pets” policy; others may welcome well behaved dogs in public areas.

Local councils would typically advise food businesses that dogs may not be permitted to enter those parts of premises where food safety could be compromised, that is areas where food (including ingredients) is stored, handled, prepared, or cooked - ie those areas where a customer would not be expected to gain access to either.5

What’s the next step?

The first step would be to amend the legislation in New South Wales to allow dogs in indoor as well as outdoor spaces, provided they are kept away from areas where food is prepared or stored and subject to the policy of the owner of the business.

The second step would be to propose another amendment to the Food Standards Code to extend the regulations to allow dogs in indoor spaces as well as outdoors, subject to the same provision.


Showing 10 reactions

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  • commented 2017-04-28 17:07:35 +1000
    I think that setting aside a modest area for dog-lovers, no more than 50% of the seating area of the pub, should be permitted if the publican wishes to accommodate pets with their owners. I question why it stops at dogs, and why only socialisation with one’s canine pet is important, though. THAT is where the “we need time to socialise with our pet” falls down – it accommodates only one type of pet.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable for people to expect to have “the run of the pub” with their dogs, for multiple reasons. Some people, including older people and children, are scared of dogs. Others are allergic. Others have perceptions that animals by virtue of not being clothed and not using the loo quite the same way we do, are less clean and that their owners don’t do a good enough job of cleaning up after them. I don’t think it’s fair to accommodate dogs in a manner that causes those people to be excluded.

    So I would hope that dog owners who wish to bring their dogs to the pub would be happy with a compromise solution – perhaps one that says the dogs-permitted area must be as far as possible from food preparation/storage/handling areas. It does seem that this is an area where compromise would be useful, because both the “want to hang with my dog” and the “don’t want to be eating next to a dog” folks have valid points.
  • commented 2017-04-05 21:02:45 +1000
    At last, a factual and research based, no nonsense explanation of the current situation about dogs in pubs and cafes. While I acknowledge not everyone is in favour of the idea, at last we can largely dismiss the propaganda around health risks. Hopefully soon we can all self select what venues suit our lifestyles and what venues don’t. Freedom of choice.
  • commented 2017-03-21 13:10:55 +1100
    dog owners should be responsible for the dog’s exercise, and for cleaning up after it, my street in Glebe is littered with dog faeces because of irresponsible dog owners, as a former chef I know how easily food and drinks can be contaminated, dogs can carry fleas, worms and other pests, and will letting animals into pubs/cafes stop with dogs?, there are plenty of parks with ‘dog park’ areas and if you love your dog taking it to the pub is not ‘exercise’
  • commented 2017-03-21 11:43:53 +1100
    Absolutely the proprietor should have final say but if it was law then the places that do want accept dogs can and then it’s our choice whether we go there or not. I think u would find that a lot of people would take their dogs on Saturday/Sunday afternoons. Would be really nice to have a choice.
  • commented 2017-03-20 16:55:41 +1100
    The proprietor should have the right to decide
  • commented 2017-03-20 11:32:02 +1100
    I would love to have my dog with me when we go the local pub. We are so far behind other countries who for years have allowed dogs in pubs and also to stay in hotels with their owners. I love all dogs and you would definitely have MY VOTEYES
  • commented 2017-03-19 14:22:03 +1100
    Some people like the presence of pets, others don’t. If dogs are to be allowed, there should also be dog-free areas set aside for those who prefer not to have animals around while eating or drinking. The proportion of premises which is devoted to dog-free entertainment should be decided by the proprietor who is free to offer the service which best maintains the profitability of the business.
    Having seen the almost ubiquitous presence of dogs and other pets in UK pubs with very few problems, I am not in favour of continuing the present ban. The degree of acceptability depends on the behaviour and cleanliness of the dog and the owner, and the proprietor should be free to exclude both when they do not meet the standards. There are already laws which govern dangerous and noisy dogs.
  • commented 2017-03-18 15:25:31 +1100
    I don’t like the idea of dogs in pubs cafés and shops except for guide dogs and disability dogs should be allowed as long as their leashed up.
  • commented 2017-03-18 07:53:42 +1100
    I am opposed to dogs in pubs, restaurants and other food outlets. The first reason is for the safety of patrons. Dogs, particularly small ones, often get underfoot and trip people, particularly the elderly, who are frequently left out of these types of considerations. Most coffee shops are busy and dogs would get in the way of waitstaff, who are carrying hot foods and liquids. It is a similar problem in pubs but with the added hazard of some patrons being affected by alcohol. At my local, one often sees American Pitbull Terriers outside the door, these animals are known to be dangerous and not all dog owners are responsible. The second consideration is for the welfare of animals. Dogs get bored in these types of environments. They like to go out to run about and exercise, not to lie about on the floors of pubs and restaurants for hours, while their owners are enjoying themselves. This law would be for the whole of NSW, not just the gentrified parts of Sydney and other urban centres. In rural areas, I have seen dogs tied up to pub verandah posts for a whole day in the middle of summer. Thirdly, is the matter of hygiene. Do not wear clothing, so floors can be contaminated by small amounts of faeces. This is fed upon by cockroaches and flies, who in turn contaminate other surfaces in pubs and restaurants, where food is prepared. Also, we all recall the story of Gough Whitlam, the Queen and her Corgis at lunch; not pleasant. ..
  • commented 2017-03-17 16:59:39 +1100
    I personally find no problems with controlled and well behaved dogs in pubs and other food areas eg. coffee shops etc . NSW is prophetic re the dogs on public transport and other areas …. in the UK and Europe it is common to see dogs [ controlled ] in many areas and on public transport …. I understand that dogs were originally allowed on the ‘new’ Sydney light rail service … but , again … Government regulations have stopped that ….. sad .

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