Bill Would Crack Down On Allowing Dogs Inside Florida's Bars, Restaurants

Oct 2, 2019

Most four-legged patrons of pet-friendly bars and restaurants would have to remain outside, under a bill proposed this week by state Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando.

The proposal (HB 243), filed for consideration during the 2020 legislative session, would prohibit household pets from “traveling through or remaining in indoor portions” of public food establishments “in order to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the public.”

While the bill wouldn’t pre-empt existing local ordinances, it would direct the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation to adopt rules and create a publicly accessible website for complaints.

It also wouldn’t bar service animals from accompanying their owners inside.

The tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida says on its website, “Dog-friendly outdoor restaurants, bars and craft beer pubs abound throughout the state, some offering ‘yappy hour’ canine-friendly designated times, others with an open-door doggie policy around the clock.”

But the Florida Depatment of Health in Duval County reminded bar owners last year that pets are not allowed inside facilities that serve food or beverages.  In a August 13, 2018, letter the agency wrote:

Dear Owner/Operator

It has come to the attention of the Florida Department of Health-Duval, some facilities are allowing animals inside the bar area. Per Florida Administrative Code, 64E-11.008 (8) Live birds and animals – "No live birds or animals except for crustacea, shellfish and fish in aquariums shall be allowed in a food service establishment, in vehicles used for transporting food or in any other area or facility used to conduct food service operations; except as provided under Section 413.08 F.S.

Although Bars under the Department of Health do not have traditional food service, 64E-11 defines food as any raw, cooked, or processed edible substance, ice, beverage or ingredient used or intended for use in whole, or in part, for human consumption.

Animals may be present outside the bar, on a patio or similar area.

The proposed legislation would go beyond what's already on the books, requiring signs informing patrons their pets are not allowed inside.

Patrons who misrepresent their pets as service animals would receive a warning for a first offense and a $100 fine for a second offense. A third offense would result in a misdemeanor charge that could include 30 hours of community service.

The 2020 legislative session will start Jan. 14. If approved, the act would take effect July 1, 2020.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Photo used under Creative Commons license.