Dogs are everywhere in Dunedin, from the walls to the sidewalks to the outdoor cafes. But have they been given too long a leash?
An anonymous business complaint about a dog in Rosie's Tavern last week led to a visit from the state Department of Health.
State law prohibits dogs in food service establishments, with the exception of service dogs. Last year, Dunedin passed an ordinance that allows dogs in designated outdoor areas. The ordinance requires businesses to apply for a permit before they can offer dog-friendly dining.
Greg Rice, Dunedin's director of planning and development, said that he looked through the city code and could not find anything permitting dogs inside businesses, except for service dogs. Food service establishments with an outdoor dining area can apply for a permit to allow dogs outside, he said.
Rice said he was not aware how few Dunedin businesses had applied for dog dining permits. Now, he says, code enforcement will have to take action to get local businesses into compliance with the city's dog dining ordinance.
How to get a dog dining permit
Businesses can pick up the dog dining permit application at the city's Planning and Development Department offices, on the second floor of 737 Louden Ave. The application details all of the requirements for dog dining. The annual permit fee is $75.
When a business applies for outdoor dog dining, it must follow these regulations:
- Signage must designate the area as available for customers with dogs.
- The dog dining area must be accessible from outside the business (cannot cut through a restaurant to get to the dog dining area).
- Hand sanitizer must be available at all tables.
- Dogs are not allowed on chairs or tables.
What qualifies as a 'food service establishment'?
The city ordinance defines a public food service establishment as "eating and drinking establishments and sidewalk cafes." Rice said any businesses with an outdoor dining area can apply for the dog dining permit.
The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation confirmed that "local governments are authorized to enact local laws allowing dogs in limited, designated outdoor seating areas of food service establishments."
"Pet dogs are still prohibited inside food service establishments including traveling through the establishment," Sandi Copes Poreda, the department's director of communications, wrote in an email.
Bars that serve food fall under the definition of food service establishments, Poreda wrote. The state's dog dining rules for bars that do not serve food are less clear. The state Department of Health in Tallahassee did not respond to an email for comment on that issue in time for this article.