Things to Consider When Going Pet-Friendly

Great news that you’re interested in making your restaurant, bar or café pet friendly!

More people than ever have a pet, and many want to be able to bring pets with them wherever they go. In fact, the largest pet-owning generation, Millennials, is also regularly cited as the generation driving restaurant trends.

As you develop your plans and guidelines, keep these considerations in mind.

  • Understand local rules and regulations. Be sure local or state ordinances don’t pose an obstacle, and advocate for a “pets on patios” ordinance if needed. The FDA’s 2022 Food Code has ready-made language about best practices that cities can apply.

  • Be sure your environment isn’t stressful for pets. Many people love watching sports or shows with friends, but the presence of televisions or live music can be stressful for pets due to cheering, clapping or other loud sounds. Alcohol can mean that pet parents get distracted too. For the best success, consider how to provide a low-stress environment for visiting pets – and one where pet parents will be best able to keep up supervision and control of their pets.

  • Take steps to keep pets safe. You’ll want to evaluate your space for safety at pet-height, making sure there aren’t exposed hazards or sharp edges. Electrical cords are another watch out, and you’ll want to ensure any plants are safe for pets. Outdoor dining areas near a road or parking area need reliable spots to securely hook leashes or a good barrier to protect pets from slipping out. Check out our list of safety considerations and tips here.

  • Be mindful of space constraints. Do you have enough space around tables to ensure there’s room for pets to sit? Can you meet ADA accessibility guidelines, so that people using wheelchairs or other assistive devices can move around even with pets in the space? You may consider spreading out a bit more or removing a table or two to ensure easy maneuverability for all.

  • Think about how to meet pets’ needs. Is there a pet relief area nearby that guests can use? Is there underutilized space where you can add one (but not near the eating area!)? Or would adjacent businesses and residences be willing to share the cost of a pet-friendly green space and amenities for the benefit of all?

  • What if you can’t go pet friendly? If any of the above considerations make you think being pet friendly isn’t right for your business, there are still ways you can have a positive impact for pets and pet parents. For example, you could donate a percentage of sales to a local animal shelter or animal welfare program or offer pet-friendly to-go items for pet parents to take when they head home.

Want more tips? Check out the Pets on Patios Toolkit for tips to help cities, business and pet parents make outdoor dining pet friendly.

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