Clark County Public Health offers option for dog-friendly patios at food establishments

Since 2005, Washington state food code has prohibited all animals, except service animals, on the premises of food establishments

VANCOUVER — Clark County Public Health has created an option for food establishments interested in creating dog-friendly outdoor patios.

Since 2005, Washington state food code has prohibited all animals, except service animals, on the premises of food establishments, which include outdoor dining areas. In recent years, local business owners and the public have shown growing interest in more pet-friendly dining establishments. In response, Clark County Public Health has developed a variance to the state code that will allow dogs on outdoor patios while still maintaining food safety.

Food establishments applying for a variance must demonstrate they have implemented practices outlined by Public Health that maintain safe food-handling standards and reduce the risks associated with having dogs in dining areas. Those practices include:

  • only allowing dogs to enter the patio area from an outside entrance
  • posting signs prohibiting dogs from sitting on chairs, tables, countertops and patrons’ laps
  • not allowing dogs to have any contact with reusable dishes or utensils used for food service
  • keeping the outdoor patio free of visible dog hair, dog dander and other dog-related waste
  • not allowing employees to touch, pet or otherwise handle any dog while serving food or beverages or handling tableware
  • requiring dogs to be kept on a short leash in the control of the owner and have a current pet license

These practices are necessary to reduce the risk of food workers coming into contact with potential sources of disease and passing those germs onto patrons. Dog feces can contain a variety of worms, bacteria and parasites, including salmonella, giardia, cryptosporidiosis and campylobacter. People who come into contact with those germs – whether directly or indirectly, on other surfaces or food – can become ill.

The local variance only applies to dogs; other pets remain prohibited on outdoor patios and inside food establishments. An approved variance only allows dogs in an outdoor seating area, not inside the restaurant. Only service animals are allowed inside food establishments.

The variance review process requires a one-time fee of $300. Food establishment permit and fee amounts are set based on the cost of providing the service, in accordance with policy direction set by the Clark County Board of Health in 2018.

Information provided by Clark Co. WA Communications.

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