Original Published 10:48 Jun 08, 2022

By Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Going out to a restaurant with your best friend is a pretty typical event. Going out to eat with man’s best friend, however, has typically been a little hairier.

Restaurants were previously allowed to welcome guests with dogs to outdoor venues only after receiving authorization from Alberta Health Services, with a public health inspector assessing the restaurant’s plan for maintaining food safety standards while accommodating their furry patrons.

As part of its red-tape reduction focus, the Alberta government announced May 26 that restaurant owners will no longer need approval from health inspectors to allow dogs and their owners to enjoy patio dining. Instead, owners and managers are allowed to come up with their own arrangements for outdoor dining that will still uphold food regulations.

Local restaurants welcome the change as it makes it easier for them to cater to their patrons.

“We’ve had a dog-friendly patio since we’ve opened,” says Meghan Davis, owner of the Oldman Brewery in Lundbreck.

“A lot of our customers are pet owners, they’re ranchers, and they wanted to be able to bring their dogs. A lot of our staff have dogs, so we’ve always liked having them around.”

Meghan says she also wouldn’t be surprised if more restaurants offer dog patios now that the process has been simplified.

“We’re all for it,” adds Donna Bader, general manager of the General’s Quarters in Pincher Creek. “It’s nice to be able to bring your well-behaved dogs on the patio with you rather than leaving them in a hot car.”

Easing the requirements, she continues, should allow restaurants to attract more guests.

“People out for a walk can just pop by for a drink or something to eat rather than needing to go take the dog home,” says Donna.

Sally Clark, owner and operator of Limber Pine Smokehouse in Crowsnest Pass, says she had started the process with a health inspector last year but found it tough to finish while working, dealing with staff shortages and raising her family.

“We had to turn away people that were looking for a dog-friendly patio,” she says.

With the announcement, she continues, Limber Pine can get things ready just in time for the summer travel season.

“It’s been a huge demand — we’re located right by the highway,” Sally says. “We have travellers all the time. We’re dog owners too so we totally get it. We want to take our dogs with us as opposed to leaving them in the car.”

The provincial announcement does not mean every restaurant with a patio is required to permit dogs on its patio, so people should check with individual establishments before arriving with their pooches. 

The change applies only to dogs and not other animals. Municipal bylaws regarding pets still apply, and dog owners must have physical control of their pets at all times through a leash or other form of restraint. Dogs are not allowed on chairs or tables, and servers are not permitted to feed or touch the animals.

The restriction on pets inside eating establishments still applies, though service dogs maintain the same rights to enter indoor areas.

More information and suggestions for welcoming dogs on patios can be found online at bit.ly/Dog-patio.

This item reprinted with permission from Shootin’ the Breeze, Pincher Creek, Alberta