What to do with service dogs? this seems to be one of the most contentious issues in our industry. I actually don’t have a guest this week because everyone I talked to about this immediately got heated about the issue. I understand there are a lot of feelings around the issue. There are a lot of misunderstandings, fears about discrimination, fears about the health department, confusion about the laws, customer’s not knowing the rules, people lying about their dog’s status, entitlement. This all leads to bad service interactions and unhappy staff and customers.
This is one of those issues, however, that has a very simple solution. When someone comes into your bar with a dog, you have to have the right intention of good service. The dog may indeed be a service animal that is necessary for a medical condition, or the customer simply may not know or understand the laws. It’s our job to explain and clarify things in the same welcoming manner that we explain our wine list or today’s happy hour specials. Listen to this episode in the player or wherever podcasts are found to hear what I do when someone comes into my bar with a dog, and read on after the break for more information about the laws involved.
We are not allowed to have live animals in our bars and restaurants for health and safety reasons. In California, the Health and Safety Code lays out the various rules and exceptions around having animals in a food facility. Most other states and countries have their own sets of rules, but they are generally the same: Animals are not allowed in food facilities unless they are trained service dogs. The Americans With Disabilities Act protects people who have service dogs for medical reasons, and dictates what we bartenders are allowed to say and do when a customer brings a service dog into our bars.