Trending: State faces upset dog lovers over unenforced dog ban on restaurant patios

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The Delaware Division of Public Health is reminding restaurants and customers that it is illegal for dogs to accompany their owners to outdoor dining spots, a move that is sure to draw angry calls from the growing number of dog lovers.

Dogs and their owners have become commonplace in outdoor dining areas, with establishments sometimes supplying water bowls.

“While DPH recognizes concerns food establishments and patrons may have about this issue, this is not a recent update to the food code. The Delaware Food Code prohibits pets – with the exception of service animals – in food establishments, which include outdoor service areas. To date, inspectors have not strictly enforced the outdoor portion of the food code. In an effort to protect the health and safety of dining patrons, we are revisiting the code and associated policies related to this issue,” DHSS stated in a Facebook post that drew hundreds of comments.

The statement went on to state that animals “can transmit pathogens to humans through direct and/or indirect contamination of food and food-contact surfaces. Animals shed hair continuously and may deposit liquid or fecal waste, creating the need for vigilance and more frequent and rigorous cleaning efforts. Additionally, un-socialized animals may present a bite risk to other patrons.”

Only service animals are allowed in Delaware restaurants. Exceptions are made for edible or decorative fish in aquariums, shellfish or crustacea on ice or under refrigeration, and patrol dogs.

The Facebook post drew 500 comments from people condemning any crackdown. Some wondered about the sate looking the other way, while others claimed canines have no place on any portion of the restaurant property.

Taking dogs to restaurant decks has contributed to surge in outdoor dining spots decks and patios. One national website even lists canine-friendly restaurants.

The Delaware Restaurant Association, in a member alert, said the ban “comes as a surprise to many of our members, whose policies may have been to allow dogs in outdoor areas….and many have been doing so for years with no opposition from health inspectors.”

The controversy may have been touched off by a Dover Post story on dog-friendly restaurants. A follow up to the piece noted noted that fido is banned from outdoor as well as indoor areas.

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