What Does It Mean For A Restaurant To Be Pet Friendly

Pet Travel Center

Many people like to take their pets with them when they go out to eat. For years, that wasn’t an option. Most restaurants and health codes did not permit animals. But times change, and in many places, pets are now welcome while we eat. But the phrase “pet friendly” doesn’t mean the same thing everywhere. Let’s take a deep dive into what exactly it means for a restaurant to be pet friendly.

What Does It Mean When A Restaurant Is Pet Friendly?

A pet-friendly restaurant means that animals are allowed to visit the establishment in some way. More than often, this applies to dogs only. And the seating that your pet can join is in the outside area. But, what it means to be pet friendly will vary by restaurant. Each establishment can make its own rules, despite what state law says. Even if state laws allow animals, restaurants do not have to grant them access. 

For every establishment that allows pets, rules will vary. Most will require your pet to be on a leash or in a cage or restrained in some way. Some establishments may provide bowls or plates for your pet. Some pet-friendly places will allow dogs only; others will be open to a variety of domestic pets. There is no one set of rules for what “pet friendly” st ands for.

If you bring your pet with you while you are dining out, here are some simple rules to follow:

  • Bring your own bowls and plates
  • Keep your pet under the table or in a seat
  • Don’t let your pet eat from your plate
  • Feed your pet before you eat so they don’t get restless
  • Don’t visit the restaurant during peak times
  • Be prepared to leave if your animal won’t behave or customers complain
Pet friendly restaurants often allow dogs in outdoor seating area.
Pet friendly restaurants often allow dogs in outdoor seating area.

How Do These Rules Apply To Service Animals?

Service dogs must be allowed to go anywhere their owner goes per the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). They are an essential part of the owner’s life and often assist the owner to make up for disability. For instance, a service dog may detect seizures or drops in blood sugar, or they may serve as a set of eyes for blind owners. To be classified as a service animal, dogs undergo rigorous training and should behave in an almost civilized manner at all times. A good service dog will be practically invisible to other patrons of the establishment.

What rules apply to Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals (ESA) are also an assistant animal but are not the same as service animals. Animals classified as ESAs are not trained to perform specific tasks. Rather an ESA provides comfort and support to their owner by merely being present. The owner may suffer from anxiety or PTSD, and having their ESA with them along the way, helps them stay grounded in times of need. Per the ADA, a business does not have to grant access to emotional support animals. Luckily nowadays, many establishments do, but it’s wise to check with the restaurant in advance. It’s not safe to assume the place you are going to will let you bring your emotional support animal.  

Popular Pet-Friendly Restaurants

The trend of bringing your animal with you to lunch or dinner is catching on. There are many popular spots in large metro areas that advertise just how pet friendly they are and how much they want you to bring your dog with you. Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of ways to find pet-friendly establishments:

Pet-Friendly Restaurants in New York

Taking your dog out to eat is a common occurrence in NYC. There are tons of websites that can help you find the best places in the city. The site Bring Fido is always being updated with more places that are pet friendly in the five boroughs.

Pet-Friendly Restaurants in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is very friendly for pet dining. This article gives you 21 establishments that are renowned for letting dogs join their owners.

Pet-Friendly Restaurants in Miami

Miami is another place where it isn’t a surprise to see dogs out with their owners. Miami Eater has some suggestions for dog-friendly dining. 

Pet-Friendly Restaurants in Houston

Houston also offers a great culture for pet-friendly dining. Check out this article from Thrillist of places to go when in town. 


It will depend on state and local laws if your pet can join you while dining. Check with the establishment before your arrival. If your pet is a service dog, they are always allowed in per the ADA. ESAs are not covered by the ADA. Some businesses build their reputation on being dog friendly, so do a search to see which ones in your area are. 

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