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Dining with your dog and what you need to know

Dining with your dog and what you need to know

Dining with your dog and what you need to know

The weather is warming up and with pandemic restrictions easing, more people are out and about with their dogs.

Restaurant owners in Ottawa spoke with CBC News recently about the uptick of customers requesting to access their establishments with their furry friends alongside them.

While restaurant owners are happy to see people coming out with their pets, it is important to be sensitive in some situations.

“There’s no surprise there that dogs were in high demand during the pandemic and now we’re starting to see them out and about,” said Johnny Bonney, assistant general manager of The King Eddy.

The King Eddy operates out of Ottawa’s ByWard Market and Johnny says over the last year there have been many calls asking if the restaurant is pet-friendly.

“I definitely can see an increase like everyone else has noticed,” said Johnny.

And at Zak’s Dinner, director of operations Kate Rutledge has also noticed it.

“Absolutely. There’s been a huge shift over the past, at least, the last decade,” she said, adding that she has worked in the industry for more than 20 years.

“We never used to see people coming to the restaurant and [asking] to have their animals, other than of course a service animal … and now it’s very common.”

Virginie Abat-Roy with the University of Ottawa is an inclusion studies professor who specializes in accessibility experience of those with service dogs. She says that since pandemic-related restrictions have eased, more people are going out in public with the help of their service dogs

Lots of the people she conducts research with decided to avoid the public for a large portion of the pandemic. This is because of public health restrictions limiting people’s accessibility.

“We kind of became not as used to seeing service animals as much [but] it is normal … they were always there,” she said.

Laws in Ontario allow service animals to accompany people in most public places, excluding industrial kitchens and surgery rooms.

Animals should not be present in places that prepare, store and serve food under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act.

However, service animals undergo lots of training to support their handlers who often are suffering from medical conditions and/or disabilities. This means that service dogs should be recognized and looked at as any other accessibility aids, like wheelchairs.

Dining With Your Service Dog

If a business desires to, they can ask the handler for a doctor’s note to prove that the person actually needs the service dog when inside an establishment. There are things to consider when asking a person about their service dog, according to Virginie.

“You cannot ask what their disability is. You cannot ask what the tasks of the dogs are, where the dog was trained. You cannot ask the person to demonstrate how the animal does a task,” she explained.

It’s also important to note that emotional support animals are not legally considered service animals under Ontario and Quebec laws. This means that you cannot legally access restaurants, although laws in the U.S. allow for it.

When it comes to these situations, the business owners or people in charge should make decisions that best suit their business. Each case is different which is important to understand.

With all of the laws, limitations and regulations, some people have gone as far as to create fake service dogs which negatively affect legitimate ones.

Because of lenient regulations when it comes to certifying service animals, it is easy for people to fake certification in order to bring their average household pets into stores and restaurants.

“In the long run, we will have to address that, especially for legislation,” said Virginie. “Definitely don’t do that. It [puts] you at risk, it [puts] the animal’s well-being and health at risk, and an accident can also happen.”

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For example, household dogs can potentially come in between the essential work that a service dog is doing for its handler and in some cases could start altercations.

“It’s also making accessibility so much more difficult for people who do need service animals,” explained Virginie.

Factors such as allergies and fear of animals need to be considered in restaurants as well.

The King Eddy and Zak’s Diner have both never had any issues with animals so far where both allow service dogs inside.

And, household pets that are well behaved are allowed on their patios with some exceptions.

“If it’s a 150-pound dog, that’s when sometimes we’ll have to sort of make a judgment call,” said Johnny.

At Zak’s Diner it’s typically smaller dogs that can sit in their owners laps or beneath the tables. If they are in carriers and non-disruptive, they can enter Zak’s Diner.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a dog-free-for-all at Zak’s, but it’s certainly something that we want to try and accommodate,” said Kate. “We want to be attractive to as many clients as we can, coming out of the pandemic.”

Zak’s Diner and The King Eddy have not felt it is necessary to ask patrons for doctor’s notes.

Lastly, Virginie wants to remind people that not all service animals are wearing gear like labelled harnesses or collars so it is important to give all animals space.

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