Despite a new amendment to the public health laws in New York State that permit dogs to accompany their owners at outdoor bars and restaurants as of October 26, 2015, a restaurant patron, Sondra Hargro, sued a restaurant owner, Scott Ross, for injuries she received from a dog bite from another patron’s dog inside Ross’s restaurant.
The Court found that Ross “was not liable, under the theory of strict liability, in absence of any evidence that restaurant owner had actual or constructive knowledge that dog had any vicious propensities.” Hargro v. Ross, 21 N.Y.S.3d 520 (N.Y. App. Div. 2015).
The Court also held that Hargro could not prevail “under a theory that restaurant owner was negligent in failing to maintain safe premises.”
Most interesting, and relevant to New York’s newly amended public health law is that the restaurant owner’s alleged violation of provision of State Sanitary Code regarding presence of animals in food service establishments was only some evidence of negligence.
Not many facts were included in the published slip opinion in Hargro v. Ross, but it seems as if the dog was inside the restaurant, not outside. The state amendments only permit companion dogs at outdoor dining areas.
Specifically, the law provides:
§ 1352-e. Companion dogs at food service establishments1. Companion dogs under the control of a person may be allowed in an outdoor dining area at a food service establishment if all of the following conditions are satisfied:
(a) the owner of the food facility elects to allow companion dogs in its outdoor dining area or a designated portion of it, and subject to any restrictions that the owner of the facility may establish;(b) a separate outdoor entrance is present where companion dogs enter without going through the food establishment to reach the outdoor dining area and companion dogs are not allowed on chairs, benches, seats or other fixtures;(c) the outdoor dining area in which companion dogs are allowed is not used for food or drink preparation or the storage of utensils. A food employee may refill a beverage glass in the outdoor dining area from a pitcher or other container;(d) food and water provided to companion dogs shall only be in single-use disposable containers;(e) food employees are prohibited from having direct contact with companion dogs while on duty. A food employee who does have such prohibited direct contact shall wash his or her hands as required by law;(f) the outdoor dining area is maintained clean. Surfaces that have been contaminated by dog excrement or other bodily fluids shall be cleaned and sanitized;(g) the companion dog is on a leash or confined in a pet carrier and is under the control of the companion dog owner;(h) there is reasonable signage indicating that companion dogs are allowed in the outdoor dining area or a designated portion of it. The signage shall state that restrictions on companion dogs do not apply to guide, hearing or service animals;(i) the food facility owner ensures compliance with local ordinances related to sidewalks, public nuisance and sanitation; and(j) such other control measures approved by the enforcement agency are complied with.2. This section shall not impair or diminish the right of an individual to be accompanied by an animal where otherwise permitted by law, including but not limited to the rights of people with disabilities using guide, hearing or service animals.
3. For purposes of this section:(a) “Food service establishment” shall mean any business which has areas, including outdoor seating areas, in which food is sold for on-premises consumption.
(b) “Companion dog” shall mean a domesticated dog accompanying an individual or owner for the purpose of companionship or convenience of such individual or owner, and shall not include guide, hearing or service dogs.
The regulation in question has not been amended to reflect changes in the law and prohibits live animal from food service operations, except for “patrol dogs accompanying security police officers or guide dogs accompanying blind persons.” 10 NYCRR 14-1.183.Since it is likely that this incident occurred before the amendments to the law were in place, the existing regulations would apply. However the law only permits dogs in outdoor dining areas.
Finally, it is important to keep this in mind: with more dogs accompanying their owners to restaurants and other public places, there will be increased incidences of injuries to people and pets and related lawsuits.