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December 2023

Should All Service Dogs Be Allowed in Restaurants?

Monday, December 31, 2018
posted by Jim Murphy

At dinner last night the conversation came up about so called service dogs being allowed in all restaurants including those that are more formal or upscale. The problem is that the term “service dog” has been stretched so to speak. It’s pretty easy to register a dog as a service dog but are they, really?

The Miami Herald published an article relating to this subject in 2017. Service dogs have to be trained to provide certain functions to help persons with disabilities. In my opinion, the rule needs to be made more clear and there should be something more than a harness provided when taking a service dog into any establishment.  All businesses should be able to ask for supporting documentation. Currently certain establishments such as restaurants can ask but lots don’t.

Below you may read a part of the article.

Employees in Florida restaurants have to uncomfortable tasks of asking patrons whether their dog is really a service dog. but most don’t.

“The health code says that any restaurant employee who comes into contact with a service animal must immediately wash their hands,” said Marc A. Marra, a litigation attorney in the Fort Lauderdale office of Kelley Kronenberg. “The business cannot inquire as to the nature or extent of the person’s disability, or ask for papers to prove the animal is a service animal. However, the business can ask if the animal is a service animal required because of a disability and what work or tasks the animal has been trained to perform.”

A service animal, according to the state of Florida, is any animal trained to provide assistance to a disabled person. The person in charge of a service animal is required by state law to keep it under control. A restaurant can only remove a service animal if it is aggressive towards other patrons or if it has had an accident, said business attorney Michelle Suarez, a partner at Odroniec Suarez in Fort Lauderdale.

Mario Padrino, who owns five Padrino’s Cuban Cuisine restaurants across Florida, recently asked Marra for legal advice regarding service animals in the restaurants.

“There are some people out there that take advantage of the service animal rule. Sometimes I see dogs on top of the table in booths whereas service dogs are usually under the table. I know what to do about this problem until I got legal advice from Marc,” Padrino said. “I recommend everyone who owns a restaurant and is curious as to what you can and can’t do with dogs in the restaurant to seek legal assistance. Service dogs in restaurants is a very current issue facing many owners and it’s important to know right from wrong.”

Said Marra: “If a person chooses to lie to the restaurant about their dog being a service animal, they do so at their own risk.”

Padrino and other business and restaurant owners are hesitant to ask customers whether their dogs are indeed service animals.

“If a team member is unsure if an animal is a service animal, the team member is instructed to ask the guest. If the guest answers yes, there is no further action,” Target spokeswoman Kristy Welker told the Miami Herald. “Per ADA law, dogs should be harnessed, leashed or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. For animals in a cart, team members can ask the guest to place a bag underneath it.”

Target does not permit non-service dogs in its stores, Welker said.

“If a guest tells a team member that their dog isn’t a service dog, the team member should tell the guest that Target’s policy is only to accommodate service animals in our stores, so the guests would be asked to leave,” she said.

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