There’s a horse in my coffee shop – Is that okay?

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Image via Reddit.

“I saw a cat at my coffee shop.”

“There’s a small horse in the grocery store.”

“Do I have to let dogs into my bakery?”

These are the types of questions and complaints we receive from concerned members of the public and business owners about animals inside restaurants and other places where food is bought and served.

So, we’re here to set the record straight. Here’s everything you need to know.

There’s a dog in my restaurant. What can I do?

Pets are not allowed in food establishments, but service animals are permitted (more on the distinction below). If you are concerned about an animal in a restaurant or grocery store, speak up! First, alert the manager. If no action is taken, you can let us know by going to our web page. We follow up on all complaints and work with food establishments to make sure they are educated about the issue. But unless a Public Health inspector witnesses a non-service animal in the restaurant (or grocery store), we cannot issue a violation.

What is a service animal?

Service animals are not pets. To qualify as a service animal, the animal must be trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. For instance, a dog may alert someone to low blood sugar or help provide guidance for someone who is visually impaired. Animals that simply provide comfort or emotional support and animals that are not trained to perform specific tasks (we’re not talking about “sit” and “stay” here) do not qualify.

While the broader definition of service animal includes everything from ferrets to pigs, food establishments only allow miniature horses and dogs on their premises.

My dog has papers that prove he is a service animal.

Those papers are probably hard earned, so congratulations. However, for the purposes of gaining access to a restaurant, certification is not necessary. Some animals wear vests, but those are also optional and do not signify service animal status.

So how do I know if a service animal is in fact a service animal?

At a food establishment, the manager on duty can ask the owner of the animal two questions:

  1. Is this dog or miniature horse a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has this dog or miniature horse been trained to perform?

They can’t ask what the disability is or for further clarification about the disability. They also can’t ask for proof of certification or license – as we mentioned above, whether or not the person has some sort of documentation is irrelevant in the eyes of the law.

Failure to provide satisfactory answers to these questions is grounds for removal of the animal from premises.

If the owner of the animal does provide satisfactory responses, the animal has permission to stay as long as it is not disruptive.

What if a service animal is bothering me?

A service animal can be asked to leave the premises if it is disruptive or unsanitary. This should be determined by the manager of the business.

I have more questions about service animals. Where can I find more info?

Right here.

Why do miniature horses wear sneakers?

Excellent question! Miniature horses wear sneakers for two primary reasons:

  1. They need extra traction on slick surfaces, and they need to protect their feet from hot surfaces and sharp objects on the ground.
  2. It is adorable!