Lots of people mistakenly believe that it’s against the law to have dogs in restaurants, cafes and pubs where food is served.

In Northern Ireland, the Food Hygiene (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2006 do not prohibit dogs from entering businesses serving or selling food products. The decision to allow dogs on the premises is at the discretion of the owner of the business.

The only legal obligation for the owner of such a business, is to make sure there is no risk of contamination and that all food preparation areas are up to specified hygiene standards. There are no health and safety regulations relating to dogs entering a business premises.

To ensure that the Food Hygiene regulations are met, business owners (and dog owners) must prevent dogs from entering any areas where food is stored, handled, prepared, or cooked.

For most premises, these are areas where a customer would not be expected to gain access to either, such as the kitchen, but also includes the counter where food is served.

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council Environmental Services Department is responsible for ensuring that businesses have adequate controls in place to prevent food contamination. They do this via regular inspections and will also respond to any concern or complaint from the public. These are investigated on a case by case basis.

Hygiene Advice for Food Business owners

  • Dogs are not allowed in areas where food is prepared, handled or stored.
  • Do not place your dog on the table, a chair, or your lap.
  • Staff should not touch dogs or handle materials that have been in contact with dogs.
  • Food staff must wash their hands immediately if they have direct or indirect contact with dogs.
  • Restrict dogs to certain parts of the premises.
  • Materials or objects that have been in contact with dogs, including dog bowls, should not be brought into food areas and should not be cleaned in food equipment or utensil sinks.
  • Any dog fouling must be immediately and thoroughly cleaned with disposable materials and disinfectant. This must be followed by thorough staff handwashing.

Good practice for dog friendly restaurants

  • Make sure there is room for the dogs to sit or lie comfortably  without causing an obstruction or creating a tripping hazard – this will protect both the dogs and customers.
  • Ensure owners are informed of the house rules for dogs on premises, these may include that dogs are: never left unattended
  • Always keep your dog on a lead and never on a retractable lead unless it is locked to the shortest position.
  • Only allowed in certain areas of the premises
  • The responsibility of the owner at all time.
  • Have dog bowls available for water and food.
  • Have dog food available to buy.
  • Have procedures in place for cleaning up accidents.