Dogs now allowed in NY restaurants. What are the rules?

Dogs can now legally dine with their owners at outdoor food service establishments across New York. 

Richard Drew/AP
Michelle Vargas, with, from left, 8-year-old Bichon Frise-Poodle mix "Carmine," 11-year-old Wire Haired Terrier "Lucy," and 10-year-old Shih Tzu-Poodle mix "Luigi," visit a cafe in a Manhattan park, on New York's Upper West Side on May 19, 2015.

It’s official! Restaurants in New York can now allow diners to bring their dogs in outdoor and patio dining areas.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a bill making it legal for restaurant-goers to bring their dog out to dinner with them. The bill was passed by the New York State Legislature last summer by a 60-0 vote, but was signed it into law late Monday.

"This action will give restaurants an additional option to boost revenue and grow their businesses by appealing to this new audience of dog-owning New Yorkers and their four-legged friends," Gov. Cuomo said in a statement. "By allowing this additional flexibility and by establishing firm health and sanitary guidelines, this legislation strikes a right balance."

New York is not the first state to allow dogs to sit by their owners at outdoor seating sections of restaurants. That honor goes to Florida. But momentum appears to be building. Maryland now has a similar law. And last year, the California Assembly passed a bill that would allow restaurants to open their outdoor dining areas to pet dogs.

A legislative memo accompanying the New York bill says many restaurant owners wish to accommodate customers with canine companions, but are currently prohibited from doing so by the state health code. 

The memo cites a 2013 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, titled "Public health implications of animals in retail outlets" that says the overall public health risk of pet dogs in outdoor dining area is very low as long as safety, sanitation, and hygiene practices are enforced.  

The law, which goes into effect immediately, does not mandate that restaurants permit dogs, but does ensure that restaurants wishing to do so will not lose their licenses to operate or face hefty health code fines, as long as certain conditions are met.

The conditions include ensuring the dogs are on a leash or confined in a pet carrier and under the control of their owners. Also, the outdoor dining area must be kept clean and employees are prohibited from having direct contact with dogs while on duty.

New York City dog owner Kim Wolf expects diners to embrace the new law.

"I think this speaks volumes to where we are as a society and how most people with dogs view them as members of the family," she told The Associated Press.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food code prohibits live animals, except fish in tanks, in retail establishments where food is served. Although states draft their own health codes, most adopt the FDA food code.

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