skip to content, health centers and clinics, search, accessibility statement

Frequently Asked Questions: Dogs in Outdoor Dining Areas

In August 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1965, a law that modified California’s health code to allow retail food businesses with outdoor seating areas to permit pet dogs in those areas.

State law previously prohibited dogs in all dining areas of restaurants and other retail food businesses, except for police dogs and service animals.

The changes take effect January 1, 2015.

Q: Will all restaurants allow dogs?

A: No. Any retail food establishment may choose not to allow pet dogs.

Q: Will restaurants that allow dogs have different health and safety rules than other businesses?

A: All retail food businesses are subject to the same standards. They must follow the same health and safety laws, are subject to the same regulatory and inspection requirements, and they follow the same process if problems are found.

Retail food businesses that choose to allow pet dogs in outdoor dining areas are additionally subject to a new section of the state health code, and must meet several new requirements to comply with the law.

Q: Where in a restaurant may pet dogs go?

A: The new law allows retail food establishments to serve dogs only if they have a designated outdoor dining space, such as a patio, with its own exterior entrance. Pet dogs are not allowed inside, and may not sit or stand on chairs or other furniture.

Q: Can I bring other pets besides dogs?

A: No. The law only applies to dogs, which must be leashed or confined in a pet carrier while dining.

Q: Can I share plates or utensils with my pet dogs?

A: No. Dogs may only eat or drink from single-use, disposable containers provided by the establishment – not from dishes or utensils provided for people, or pet dishes brought from home.

Q: Can the server pet or play with my dog?

A: No. Employees of retail food establishments are prohibited from petting or otherwise having contact with dogs while on duty, and must immediately wash if contact occurs.

Q: Who is responsible for cleaning up after a pet dog in an outdoor dining area?

A: The establishment is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all of its dining areas are clean and safe for the public. The law requires that any dog excrement or other bodily fluids left in the dining area must be cleaned up promptly, and any contaminated surfaces sanitized.

Q: Who is responsible if a dog misbehaves, barks or is not properly controlled?

A: Contra Costa Environmental Health does not regulate the conduct of pets or their owners. Maintaining a dining environment free from fighting, biting or crashing furniture is the responsibility of individual businesses, customers, and potentially local law enforcement.

Q: Why are there so many rules about dogs at restaurants?

A: Even clean, well-groomed and well-behaved animals can contaminate food or drink.

Tiny traces of dog waste or bodily fluids can contain germs that make people or other dogs sick. So can fur and pet dander (dead skin), which can also cause allergic reactions in some people.

Q: Is it safe to eat at a restaurant that allows dogs?

A: A restaurant that complies with state and local law is considered “safe” from an environmental health standpoint.

Q: How can dog owners help pet-friendly businesses?

A: The best way to support a local business that allows dogs, beyond making purchases, is to follow its rules. Retail food operators are ultimately responsible if customers get hurt, consume contaminated food, or violate health laws – the businesses make their rules to avoid those situations.

Common courtesy can also help to ensure a safe and pleasant experience for all customers:

  • Only use the designated pet entrance and keep your dog leashed or in a pet container at all times.
  • Do not tie leashes to tables. Tie a dog’s leash to the owner’s chair, out of the way of servers and other customers.
  • NEVER bring an aggressive, nervous or untrained dog to a restaurant.
  • Make sure your dog is clean and groomed, and walk your dog before dining out.
  • Never let dogs eat from “people” dishes, utensils or glasses.
  • Only feed and water dogs from the designated dishes provided by the restaurant.
  • Clean up after your dog, and promptly notify the staff if your pet has an accident.
  • Be responsible for your dog’s behavior – it is not enough to say “don’t touch” or “keep away.”