7 Ways to Dine with Your Pet in Metro Phoenix
When some of us go out to eat, we'd rather see an animal on our plate than under the dinner table. But more and more, it's common to see pets at restaurants. So just when is this acceptable in Phoenix, and when isn't it? We dug to find out more. Here are 7 ways to dine with your pet in metro Phoenix.
Katie Johnson Admit it-- you've probably tried to bring your dog to a restaurant before
Adopt a Fish
The Maricopa County Environmental Services Department regulates and enforces the Food Code here in Phoenix, says Johnny Dilone, Environmental Services' public information officer. And the Food Code is pretty strict. It completely bans live animals from establishments that serve food, including restaurants, grocery stores, and bars, he says, with very few exceptions.
One unusual exception to this rule is made for fish -- edible or decorative -- in tanks. And yes, that rule was probably initially meant to allow for live (for the time being) lobsters but it extends to your pet, too. Got a lonely beta? Bring it along to lunch.
Bring Along a Service Animal
The biggest exception to the Food Code's no-animals rule is made for service animals. This is backed up by state and federal legislation protecting the right of all citizens with disabilities to bring their service animals into restaurants. In Arizona, only dogs and miniature horses qualify as service animals under state law.
Technically speaking, service animals aren't pets. Rather, they are specially trained animals that help their owners to perform major life tasks, says Carrie Ann McCanless of the National Service Animal Registry. Arizona law outlines these tasks to include things like helping the blind to navigate and alerting the hard of hearing to sound, but also pulling wheelchairs, assisting individuals with seizure disorders, retrieving items such as medicine or a telephone for those who couldn't otherwise do so, and assisting those with psychiatric or neurological disorders in curbing destructive or impulsive behaviors.
McCanless says it's important to understand the difference between a service animal and an emotional support dog. Emotional support dogs are not service animals, she says. Service animals help their owners to deal with situations that could otherwise be life threatening, she says, and only in extreme cases do emotional support issues reach that level. A dog that helps with general anxiety is not a service animal, but a dog assisting someone with severe PTSD who might undergo a dangerous flashback episode could qualify as a service animal, McCanless says.
Emotional support animals do get some special treatment under the law. They can fly with their owners on an airplane, and they are allowed to live in otherwise no-pet housing, McCanless says -- but they are not allowed in restaurants. In fact, Arizona law specifically states, "the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort or companionship do not constitute work or tasks," the distinguishing actions required to make a dog or miniature horse a service animal.
Even traditional service animals can be excluded from restaurants at times. If an animal poses a health or safety threat, or "fundamentally alters the nature of the public place or the goods, services or activities provided," the law says, then it can be prohibited from entering. The federal government makes it clear that this second scenario is rare--it might include a dog barking so loudly as to interrupt a movie--and would rarely exempt a restaurant from its mandate to allow service animals inside.
And a service animal should rarely pose a safety threat to anyone, McCanless says. "The main thing is the training of the animal. If it's a service animal, it needs to be so well behaved that people don't even know it's there in the restaurant," she says.