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Tennessee Passes Senate Bill 2725-Companion Dog Bill

Author:  Jenny Haarbauer

Prior to July 1, 2009, Tennessee state law only permitted dogs on the premises of restaurants if the dogs were considered certified service dogs.  But in a 64-21 vote, the state house approved Senate Bill 2725 which amended state law in effect creating an ordiance authorizing the admittance of dogs in outside restaurant dining areas.  Individual restaurant owners may now legally permit "companion" dogs to join their owners at their establishment as long as it is outdoors. 

Under the provisions of this bill, municipalities with a population of at least 100,000 may opt to participate as long as the application of the bill provides for adequate controls to ensure compliance with the Tennessee Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act and any other applicable statutes or ordinances.  So far, several other smaller jurisdictions have sought to be included under this bill thru amendments including Blount, Sevier and Fentress counties.

Other provisions include: (1) no companion dog shall be present in the interior of any restaurant or in any area where food is prepared, (2) the restaurant shall have the right to refuse to serve the owner of a companion dog if the owner fails to exercise reasonable control over the dog or the dog is otherwise behaving in a manner that compromises or threatens to compromise the health or safety of any person present in the restaurant, (3) all employees shall wash their hands promptly after touching, petting, or otherwise handling a dog, (4) employees and patrons shall be instructed that they shall not allow the dogs to come into contact with serving dishes, utensils, tableware, linens, paper products or other food service items, (5) patrons shall keep their dogs on a leash at all times and keep their dog under reasonable control, (6) dogs shall not be allowed on chairs, tables, or other furnishings, (7) accidents involving companion dog waste shall be cleaned immediately and the area sanitized with an approved product, (8) establishments must post proper signage of the rules, and (9) dogs shall not be permitted to travel through indoor or nondesignated portions of the public food service area, and ingress and egress to the designated outdoor portions of the public food establishment shall not require entrance into or passage through any indoor area of the food establishment.

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