Casey’s Corner: Dogs allowed…or not?: The United States versus the world
Last month’s column on the differences between service, therapy, and emotional support dogs elicited more comments than any of my columns over the past six years, with many writers agreeing that the problem lies with irresponsible owners trying to get away with bringing their dogs to places they’re not allowed.
One interesting side-commentary emerged, however, about how people shouldn’t bring their dogs into any public places. Not restaurants (even outdoor patios), not stores, not businesses. Period.
That got me wondering how the rest of the world deals with dogs in public places, and why the United States seems to be so out of step with many other western nations in terms of where dogs are and aren’t allowed.
So, for both the dogs-don’t-belong-in-public advocates out there and those who believe in looser restrictions, I’d like to offer a glimpse into the practices of other nations when it comes to dogs in public places.
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While in the United States our default position is “no dogs allowed,” Switzerland is the exact opposite. Unless there’s a sign specifically prohibiting dogs, you can safely assume your pup is welcome in any bar, restaurant, café, store, or on public transportation.
Italy is undoubtedly one of the most dog-friendly nations in Europe. While some places like bakeries may have a sign prohibiting dogs, most restaurants and cafés allow dogs inside.
Dogs are also permitted in Italy’s market halls, similar to our mall food courts, in many retail stores, and even in some grocery stores. Public transportation, including trains, is no problem if you have a dog—although you may need to pay a small fee for larger dogs on longer-distance trains.
The laws in the United Kingdom only prohibit dogs in food preparation areas, not areas where food is served and sold—basically, it’s up to the restaurant owner as to whether or not to allow dogs. Where you can almost always bring your dog, however, is into one of the nation’s ubiquitous pubs, whether it’s in the city or the countryside.
Dogs are allowed to travel on all trains, as well as London’s buses and underground tube.
Republic of Ireland
In 2017, Ireland’s food safety authority repealed the 1950 law prohibiting dogs in food establishments, allowing business owners the final decision about permitting domestic animals.
Like the rest of the European Union, Ireland allows dogs on trains, usually for free.
In May of 2018, the Portuguese Parliament approved a new law permitting pets to accompany their owners into commercial establishments, including shops and restaurants. Again, it is up to the individual business owner to decide whether to allow pets on their premises.
Dogs are allowed on Portugal’s trains and busses, although they may be charged a fee.
While dogs are not allowed in German grocery stores, butcher shops and other places where fresh food is sold, many restaurants allow well-behaved dogs.
Dogs are also allowed on public transport. Small dogs should be in a carrier, larger ones on a short leash.
The Netherlands has no prohibition against dogs in restaurants, although again it is at the business owner’s discretion. Policies are noted by a door sign indicating dogs are definitely allowed (a dog symbol surrounded by a green circle) or not allowed (a dog surrounded by a red circle).
Dogs are generally allowed on all forms of public transport in The Netherlands, although the rules vary as to whether a ticket is required.
Finally, a Word About Food Safety and Health Risks
Remember that here in the United States, Food and Drug Administration health recommendations concerning dogs in food establishments are just that: recommendations, not laws. States and localities are free to enact their own regulations.
Second, keep in mind the science (as opposed to myth or folklore) surrounding domestic animals in food settings. There is very little scientific evidence connecting health risks and pets in restaurants, despite America’s germaphobic paranoia about cleanliness and personal hygiene, where you can find everything from germ-resistant scissors to antimicrobial shorts.
According to the Journal of Environmental Health, “The overall public health risk…to an individual patron enjoying a meal in animal-friendly food establishments is low when accompanied by rigorously enforced safety, sanitation, and hygiene practices.”
In other words: aggressive dogs should be prohibited, dogs must always be under the owner’s control, servers should either not touch dogs or wash their hands after they do so, and dogs should be prohibited from eliminating anywhere on the premises.
(The same could be said for small children in restaurants.)
I’d like to think that one day, America might catch up to its European cousins when it comes to allowing dogs in public places, and I won’t have to even think about whether to leave my furry companion home alone or take him with me to enjoy a cup of coffee or chow down on a turkey sandwich. Which I’ll probably end up sharing with him.
Ahh, the life of a dog parent.
Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her Golden Retriever Joey, her Maine Coon cat Indy, and the abiding spirit of her beloved Golden Retriever Casey in whose memory this column is named. You can reach Joan at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re looking for a Golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.
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