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2:27 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

Pet friendly patios offer Fido a new dining experience

YAVAPAI COUNTY - A new program in Yavapai County is allowing dogs to dine alongside their owners at certain restaurants.

According a news release from the Yavapai Community Health Services, restaurants within the county can apply for a Dog Friendly Patio permit. The program officially began Aug. 1.

Health services, in conjunction with the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, Yavapai County Food Safety Industry Council and community members developed the idea for dog- friendly patios after repeated requests from the public and community officials, Environmental Health Unit Manager Cecil Newell said in an email.

"The department started reviewing the possibility by looking into a number of other states and local jurisdictions that were allowing dog-friendly patios at food establishments," Newell wrote.

The county is offering restaurant establishments dog-friendly patio permits at no cost through October. Starting in November, the application fee will be $105.

Some of the guidelines restaurants must follow to maintain dog friendly patios are:

• The patio must have an outdoor entrance.

• Signs listing pet patio rules must be posted where employees and customers can see them.

• No food or drinks may be prepared in the patio area.

• Patios must be free of dog hair, dander, waste and debris.

• Employees may not touch, pet or hold any dogs while serving customers.

• Equipment used to clean patios must be kept outside the establishment.

• All dogs must be kept on a leash and in the owner's control.

• Dogs are not allowed on seats, chairs, owner's lap, tables or any surface other than the ground.

• Water can be provided to dogs in disposable containers only.

While restaurant staff cannot serve pooches food on the establishment's tableware, owners can bring their own dog food and containers for their pets to snack on.

So far, two establishments have been approved to make room for pooches on their patios - Leff T's Steakhouse & Grill, 150 S. Highway 69, Dewey, and Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, 2985 Centre Court Prescott Valley, Newell said.

"The people with dogs think it's fabulous and I haven't had any complaints from people without dogs," Leff T's co-owner, Raven, said. "I have a dog, and I know I'm always looking for places that allow dogs."

The steakhouse has been offering seating for dogs and diners for about two months.

While the pet patio has been a hit with customers at Leff T's, the idea didn't go over so well with customers at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Shortly after opening the restaurant's patio to dogs, staff members began to receive complaints from customers, according to General Manager Jamie Stancil. The restaurant no longer allows dogs, other than service animals, on the patio.

Some people are OK with the idea of eating alongside the canines.

"I wouldn't mind going to a restaurant that allowed dogs on the patios as long as the area was clean," Cheryl Sala, 47, of Prescott, said. "I mean, I have two dogs at home and I eat around them and that doesn't bother me."

Sean O'Connell, 53, said the idea is a "clever way to attract tourists." O'Connell and his wife, Maureen, were visiting the Prescott area from Las Vegas. "I know when we travel we always are on the lookout for dog friendly hotels and restaurants. And when we find them, we usually go back. Dog friendly stores, hotels and restaurants make traveling with a pet easier. We really aren't big on leaving our dog in the car."

Others are less enthused.

"No. No, no, no," Barbara Swell, 67, from Prescott Valley said vehemently. "People need to leave their dogs at home where they belong. I don't want to see dogs in stores or restaurants. Personally, I think it is unsanitary and potentially dangerous. What happened if a dog bit another customer? What then?"

"There's times when I don't even want to bring my kids with me to a restaurant, let alone my dog," Debbie Lathrop, 37, said laughing. "It's the whole sanitation thing that kind of freaks me out. Even if the restaurant kept the area clean, I don't want to be eating where someone's dog may have done their business on the patio."

For an application and a complete list of regulations regarding dog-friendly patios, visit www.YavapaiHealth.com.

Follow Tamara Sone on Twitter @PDCtsone