Avoid hairy situations with dogs at your brewery


Consider the liability issues when allowing dogs at a business.

Today more than ever, our furry best friends are taking their seats next to us for rides in the car, trips on airplanes – and drinks on the patio at the local craft brewery. Brewpub operators should review and understand state and local regulations regarding food service establishments and animals.

And while allowing patrons to bring their dogs can be great for public relations, accepting dogs on your premises comes with considerable responsibility and liability questions.

Make sure you know the rules in your area. For example, the Ohio Revised Code allows dogs on the patio and in outdoor spaces at the brewery, but not inside the taproom. States such as North Carolina, Florida and Colorado are clarifying that breweries are food establishments and are cracking down on dogs in the taproom.

Remember that there are likely exceptions for guide dogs and other certified service animals, so consult your legal adviser for regulations that apply in your area.

Dogs inside the taproom

With few exceptions, most states do not allow dogs inside food premises, and recent legislative changes are becoming more restrictive. From Charlotte, North Carolina, to Denver, Colorado, cities and states are enacting legislation to crack down on allowing dogs inside the brewery.

Dogs on the patio

As states clarify “no dogs inside the brewery” policies, many are affirming dogs are allowed in outdoor areas and patios, subject to food sanitation rules. Post signage stating the rules regarding dogs in an easily visible location.

Factors that merit attention

Here are questions to consider before you allow dogs in your establishment:

  • Will you allow dogs during peak hours or special events?
  • What leash rules will you have? Should you ban retractable leashes? Will you ask patrons not to secure leashes to furniture?
  • How will you communicate the owner’s responsibility for cleaning up dog waste?
  • How will you provide water to the dogs?
  • How will you handle employee hygiene?
  • What areas of the establishment are off limits to dogs and how will you communicate this?
  • How will your staff deal with a bite to a human or another dog? What incident documentation will you require?
  • Will you train employees to recognize aggressive dog behaviors?

Before you allow dogs on the brewery patio, consider the potential risks, and speak with your insurance agent to make sure all liability concerns are addressed.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Neither The Cincinnati Insurance Company nor its affiliates or representatives offer legal advice. Consult with your attorney about your specific situation. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.

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