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Over the past decade it has become increasingly popular for people to bring dogs onto restaurant patios. However, under the current food code adopted by the State of Iowa, dogs are not allowed on restaurant patios because of potential food contamination concerns. Fortunately for Iowans, the Department of Inspections and Appeals will be proposing a new set of administrative rules that will allow dogs on restaurant patios. These rules will be published on February 12, 2020.

Under the current administrative code, the Department of Inspections and Appeals has developed a variance that would allow for dogs restaurant patios. To apply for a variance, that was based on a local ordinance in California, the following information was required and could take up to 30 days to receive approval from the agency:

1.   A statement of the proposed variance of regulations citing appropriate section numbers. (6-501.115 Prohibiting Animals)
2.   A statement indicating how the above rule will pose too much hardship on the person or persons requesting the variance. (If the facility was not granted the variance, how would this affect the business?)
3.   A statement as to whether the variance from the requirement would prejudice the legal rights of any person. (The facility must not prejudice the legal rights of any person. The facility should discuss this provision with legal counsel. We will likely have to run any request past our legal counsel.)
4.   A statement whether the provisions of the rule are specifically mandated by statute or another provision of law. (This provision is in the administrative rule not the statute)
5.   A description of the alternate means used to protect the public health that is substantially equivalent to full application of the rule. (What is the alternative method used to provide equal public health protection?)

  • The attached document outlines the areas the proposal needs to address:
  • Rules need to be established and posted at all entrances and in areas the dogs are allowed.  These need to be reasonably sized and in clear view of all customers.
  • Rules must address all of the bulleted items:
  • Separate entrance
  • Dogs cannot enter the indoor area even to go to the approved outdoor area
  • Must be on leash at all times and maintained under reasonable control
  • Clean up responsibilities
  • Enforcement of rules responsibilities
  • Dogs cannot be on chairs tables or benches
  • Single service items for dogs
  • Address barking/fighting/biting
  • No food prep in outdoor area (including beverage service)
  • Must submit a photo or diagram identifying the areas the dogs are allowed
  • No employee contact
  • Hand washing if there is incidental employee contact

While the current variance has been useful for Iowans that would like to take their dogs onto restaurant patios, it is a little bit of a complicated process that takes time and effort out of the restaurant owner or manager’s day to apply for and additional time to wait for approval by the agency. While the Department of Inspection and Appeal’s rules have not been published yet, it is safe to assume that these rules will make it simpler for restaurants to allow Iowans to bring their dogs onto restaurant patios.

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Author: Press Release