Following the recent opening of London’s first ‘cat café’ in Shoreditch, where city-dwellers missing contact with their furry friends can enjoy a coffee and a cake whilst stroking one of the resident cats, the question of whether or not it is safe and legal for food businesses to permit domestic animals in their premises is raised.
Obviously, a common-sense approach should prevail. Being able to appropriately control the animals is a necessity and allowing free-roaming cats, rabbits or dogs should be discouraged.
There is no law that prevents dogs from entering a food premises – it is at the discretion of the food business operator as to whether or not they are allowed in. Country pubs nationwide are known for being pet-friendly and prove their hospitality to our canine chums, providing bowls of water and the odd bag of smoky bacon crisps to satisfy them.
It is a common misconception that in the UK dogs are not allowed in places where food is served. However, this is not the case. The legal onus on the business is to ensure that there is no risk of contamination from allowing domestic animals into your restaurant or café. It is imperative that access to areas where foods are handled, prepared and/or stored is restricted. This would include, for example, ensuring adequate means of preventing a dog from entering the kitchen should it escape its owners grasp, or making sure that loose fur from a moulting German Shepherd doesn’t find its way into the soup of the day…
Furthermore, it is also important before deciding on a blanket ban on dogs to remember your duties under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and customers who rely on their dogs to maintain their lifestyle. The Food Standards Agency considers guide/assistance dogs to be highly trained working dogs, not pets, and refusing to allow an assistance dog into the premises with their owner could be deemed an infringement of the law – after all, the dogs are depended upon by their owners to help them carry out day to day tasks.
Please contact Food Alert on 020 7244 1900 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any enquiries about this topic.