Pasco County now has an ordinance to permit doggy dining in outdoor areas of restaurants.
The Pasco County Commission adopted the new measure unanimously at its Nov. 28 meeting in New Port Richey.
A $50 permit fee was later approved on Dec. 12 in Dade City.
The commission’s action, however, is news to many area restaurants that already have been allowing patrons to enjoy a meal on their patios, with a tail-wagging companion lounging nearby.
It’s standard company policy at a number of restaurants. Yappy hours are popular as special events.
There are websites, too, that are devoted to marketing area restaurants that are dog-friendly, including BringFido.com and PascoPetFest.com.
BringFido provides information on dog-friendly hotels, as well as restaurants nationwide.
That site lists 17 Wesley Chapel restaurants that are dog-friendly, including Applebee’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, PDQ, Texas Roadhouse, Tijuana Flats, GrillSmith, and Panera Bread.
Dog-friendly restaurants on PascoPetFest.com include The Breakfast Nook, The Garden Café, Crab Shack Port Richey, and Pinchers Crab Shack.
Patrons at doggy dining spots throughout the county didn’t know anything was amiss, including Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.
“We’ve been taking our dog out for six months,” Starkey said, adding, “I’m glad to be legal.”
Melanie Armstrong, owner of The Garden Café in Dade City, is among those who hadn’t heard of the new rules put in place.
“I’d like to know the details on what I need to do to be compliant,” she said.
Her restaurant has a large outdoor patio. On average, Armstrong said one or two patrons a day dine with their dogs, and servers keep things sanitary.
The dogs have been well-behaved, and it’s never been a problem, she said. “We have such a big patio. We try to capitalize on that. We get regular customers that bring their dogs.”
Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano initially raised the issue at the Aug. 15 commission meeting in Dade City. He said a couple of restaurant owners in Port Richey had inquired about doggy dining, and about getting a permit.
Now, those who are adding doggy dining and those who have already been offering it, must get the required $50 permit or face fines.
During the August discussion, Mike Moore, who was commission chairman at the time, called for a low fee.
“We don’t want to overcharge for a permit they’re going to hang on their wall,” Moore said.
Paperwork for the permit requires a drawing of where the doggy dining will take place, though it doesn’t have to be professionally done.
Commission members gladly approved the new ordinance.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Moore said. “You see it in a lot of cities and surrounding counties. It’s about time we get in the game.”
Just one person spoke against the ordinance during the public comment portion of the hearing.
“You have servers who are busy. They pick up dishes. The family has allowed the dog to eat off the dish,” said Port Richey resident Richard Wilkey.
The dogs could have fleas, and they might urinate or defecate, he said. “It’s just totally unacceptable.”
That prompted Mariano to ask an assistant county attorney for a recitation on the regulations in place to address Wilkey’s concerns.
The county’s permit follows the state’s lead on the issue. The state requires:
- Servers who touch or pet a dog to wash their hands
- Dogs to stay at ground level and be on a leash
- Dogs to stay off chairs and tables, and to refrain from eating off plates
- Provision of a sanitizer station, and cleanup kit for dog waste
- Posting of the permit and explanatory signs in a public place
Commissioner Mariano also noted: “Food establishments have a choice to allow it or not.”
Published December 20, 2017