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Sydney Dog Owners Are Fighting to Allow Dogs in Pubs and Restaurants

The Battle to Allow Dogs in Pubs

Sydney dog lovers are fighting to change laws that stop their pets joining them for a drink at the pub or a bite in a restaurant. The push is being led by Greens member for Balmain Jamie Parker. He’s proposing a change to the blanket ban, and calling supporters to sign a petition on his website.

In an open letter to the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian he argues: “Dog-friendly pubs are a key ingredient of the charm and unique atmosphere in many places in NSW. The ability to bring a well behaved dog into their establishment is a key driver of custom for many pubs and hotels. We believe that there’s a strong argument for changing these restrictive laws to allow pub proprietors to have the right to welcome dogs into their establishments, as they can in the UK and parts of Europe.”

His proposed changes to the legislation would allow venues to make their own call over whether they welcome pets on not. It’s actually the second time the Greens member has tried to have the law changed. In 2018 he made a similar call, but the attempt failed to attract needed support from the state government or Labor opposition.

This time, things are going better. The latest petition has attracted thousands of signatures and Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore has already backed the move, saying: “I have long been an advocate for allowing pets in pubs, on public transport and in workplaces.”

Dogs in pubs

What’s the Law Around Dogs in Pubs and Restaurants?

Since 2012 the government regulatory body, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), has allowed restaurants, pubs, and cafes to choose if they allow dogs in outdoor dining areas. The decision was made after they assessed the risk of dogs transmitting diseases to diners and found it “low to negligible.”

Basically, dogs in pubs and restaurants are fine as long as the outside area isn’t enclosed, you can get to it without needing to go inside, the dog’s on a lead, they stay out of food prep areas, and don’t come near surfaces where food is served. Service dogs are exempt from all this, and some restricted breeds have additional limitations.

The restaurants still have the right to refuse animals. While the health risks are minimal, some do argue that dogs pose issues for people with allergies or phobias.

The Crackdown That Inspired the Petition

In recent years the demand for dog-friendly spaces has risen. In 2017 deputy CEO of Restaurant and Catering Australia (R&CA) Sally Neville told Restaurant & Catering Association: “There is a growing demand for dog-friendly dining as we see more families made up of adults and their ‘pet children’”. Not only are dogs always great to have around, but restaurant owners have also observed that they feel it increases business as people are more inclined to head out if they can bring their pet

But despite the call, across the country venues have reported recent crackdowns from local councils over dogs in pubs and restaurants. This month Fairfax have reported Sydney venues feeling the pressure. Even famously dog-friendly venues like Kurrajong Hotel in Erskineville have been threatened with fines. In response some pubs have begun refusing patrons with dogs over fear of penalties.

Similar concerns were felt in Melbourne last year when several bars that had long been known to be dog-friendly received fines and warning, kicking off state-wide debate over dogs in restaurants.

In Victoria, it turned out the sudden attention was due to local councils being contacted by the Food Safety Unit of the Department of Health & Human Services requesting that they remind food business of the law in relation to dogs in food premises. The department apparently made the recommendation after they became aware of a dog-friendly promotional campaign by traders in the City of Stonnington.

One of the venues that was impacted was Bar Josephine in Footscray. At the time, owner Aaron Donato told Off the Leash, “We’ve been operating for almost three years and have always allowed dogs wherever customers are allowed. We love it, we think it really contributes to the sense of community.” He reflected that the crackdown would “definitely have a negative impact on our business and on the broader community.”

Dogs in pubs

How Other Countries Welcome Dogs

While Australia is generally a pretty nice place to be a dog, we do fall behind when it comes to pet-friendly venues. Many European countries (such as France, Switzerland, and Italy) welcome dogs in pubs, bars, restaurants, and retail stores.

What’s Next

A NSW government spokesman told Fairfax it would consider the latest bill when it is put forward. So if it matters to you, consider signing the petition.

For more life with dogs:

The Best Sydney Dog Beaches to Explore this Summer
Melbourne’s Top Dog-Friendly Cafe’s this Summer
What’s with All Those Dogs in Bunnings?

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Written by Wendy Syfret
Wendy is Head of Media at Scratch. Which is a good fit, because she's never met a dog she didn't like. Although she has a special place in her heart for muts: three legs, one eye, missing fur, bit of a weird walk? The scruffier the better. Her favourite dog in the whole world though is her terrier-mix Stevie.