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Animals in Food Premises

Can I bring my pet dog or cat into a food business, such as a shop, café or restaurant?

Generally speaking the answer is no, but there are some exceptions, including some at the discretion of the owner of the food business, who must have adequate procedures in place to prevent domestic animals from gaining access to places where food is prepared, handled or stored.

Guide Dogs, Assistance and Companion Dogs

Food business operators should make an exception for:

  • guide dogs to help people who are vision impaired;
  • assistance dogs for families of children with autism;
  • assistance dogs for adolescents with autism;
  • companion dogs for persons with other disabilities; and
  • pups and dogs in training who will go on to qualify as the above categories of dog.

The reasoning is that these dogs are specially selected and highly trained animals that receive comprehensive training and together with their owner become a mobile team. A particular feature of the dog’s training is that when the owner is dining out the guide dog is trained to lie down beneath the table and to stay there until the owner is leaving. Every guide dog is identified by a distinctive white harness and officially embossed I.D. medallion, and guide dog owners are expected to carry an official I.D. card.

Who is in charge of the training of these types of dogs?

The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind (IGDB) is the main body for training guide dogs and assistance dogs for children with autism spectrum disorder and pups in training. Irish Guide Dogs is an accredited dog school, accredited by Assistance Dogs Europe and the International Guide Dog Federation. IGDB has confirmed that the level of training and the conditions of ownership for these categories of dogs are to a high standard and they are all well equipped to behave in food premises. There are also other organisations in Ireland that train other forms of companion and assistance dogs.

Other Dogs and Pets

The law does not specifically prohibit domestic animals (dogs and cats) from being in a food premises. The objective is to ensure that domestic animals do not compromise food safety by, in particular, having access to places where food is prepared, handled or stored. Access, therefore, to places such as kitchens and store rooms or shops, supermarkets or other places where food is on open display may not be permitted.

Access to customer dining areas of restaurants and bars could be permitted by the food business at its discretion provided that:

  • such access to customer dining areas is taken into account within the food safety management system in operation in the food business;
  • the dining areas are monitored;
  • every effort is taken to ensure that food cannot be contaminated;
  • dogs and other pets are kept under the control of the owners; and
  • proper procedures are in place to deal with any contamination of the premises.