Skip to main content

Animals in Retail Food Premises

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

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

Dogs and Pets other than Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs

The law does not specifically prohibit companion animals (dogs and cats) from being in a retail food business. However, the law does oblige food business operators to manage risk of contamination of their food and therefore ensure that animals do not compromise food safety by 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 by food businesses.

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 considered within the food safety management system in operation in the food business
  • the dining areas are monitored
  • all reasonable 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.

Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs

Retail food businesses that prohibit companion animals should make an exception for guide dogs and assistance dogs. 

Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs may be regarded to pose low risk of contaminating food due to the high standards of training, grooming and veterinary care given to them. A particular feature of the dog’s training is that when the owner is dining out the guide dog or assistance dog is trained to lie down beneath the table and to stay there until the owner is leaving. Owners of guide dogs and assistance dogs carry an official ID card provided by their organization. This, alongside either the guide dog harness, or assistance dog jacket, are unique identifiers that these dogs have reached the standard for public access.

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

There are several accredited organisations in Ireland that train guide dogs and assistance dogs. Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind is the main body for training guide dogs. They are a dog school, accredited by Assistance Dogs International. Accredited organisations in Ireland for assistance dog services are Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, Dogs for the Disabled and My Canine Companion, all of which are accredited by Assistance Dogs International. 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. 

Go to the top ⇧.