The Lexington health department doesn’t hate dogs. They like them, in fact, but rules are rules.
“Dog owners are passionate people and we are not out to target any one business,” said Kevin Hall, spokesman for the Lexington-Fayette Health Department. “We love animals here, but we just want to make sure the people of Lexington are protected.”
The people of Lexington did not take the news well. After the news broke on Monday that Double Dogs, which opened this week, wouldn’t be able to allow pets in its patio seating area after it had announced it would, many took to social media to protest.
A petition calling for the health department to let the dogs in had almost 800 signers by Tuesday afternoon.
FDA rules that prohibit animals on the premises of restaurants prompted the health department to notify Double Dogs Chow House about a month before it opened that the restaurant wouldn’t be able to allow pets in, Hall said.
But the restaurant, which bills itself as dog friendly, isn’t giving up without a fight. Possibly even a legal one. A Facebook post encouraged pet-owners not to lose heart: “Our attorneys are looking into this and we hope we can welcome your dog soon.”
The health department wants the dog-loving public to know it is listening and suggests contacting elected officials if you want the rules changed, Hall said.
“We are listening, and the state is listening. Talk to your state reps, your council members,” he said. “We definitely don’t want people think their voice can’t be heard.”
Until then, if you bring your dog to your favorite restaurant you might, in fact, be risking a citation for that restaurant if someone complains. That has happened in the past at other restaurants, he said.
“As the law is written, animals are prohibited,” Hall said. “The biggest point of confusion seems to be ‘I see dogs there all the time.’ Inspectors can’t be in all places at all times. We can only respond on specific complaints. If someone sees an animal, they might call and file a complaint.”
In Louisville, apparently no one is complaining, said Louisville health department spokesman Dave Langdon. Double Dogs also has a location there, too, and the chain said the dog-friendly policy hasn’t caused any issues.
“Basically, we enforce those kinds of issues by complaint, and frankly this has never come up with this facility or any other,” Langdon said. “It’s pretty common in Louisville for restaurants to have tables outside, either on the sidewalk or close to it. And we’re trying to have people get out and walk, trying to encourage that.
“So as a practical matter, if somebody brought a complaint, we’d probably go out and issue orders for them not to do that. But it’s never come up. ... The food code is open to interpretation,” he said. “It says ‘on the premises,’ but is that outside, too?”