Currently, Winter Garden is the only West Orange municipality that has an ordinance allowing doggie dining. West Orange Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Stina D’Uva is working to change that.
Some dog owners enjoy taking their four-legged friends along with them to dine outside of restaurants on days when the weather is nice. Some restaurants welcome their patrons’ dogs and even set up water bowls for them.
“Dogs are becoming more compatible everywhere you go, and we’re not talking about service dogs. Of course, service dogs would be allowed inside and outside of an establishment no questions asked, but this is not for the service dog. It’s for just pets.” — Stina D'Uva, President and CEO of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce.
But are they following the rules? It depends on whether their local government has an ordinance in place that allows for dog-friendly dining at restaurants.
West Orange Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Stina D’Uva said for dog-friendly dining at restaurants to be allowed, the local governing body of where a restaurant is located must have an ordinance in place to allow it.
“Right now, there’s a state statute that allows for municipalities and counties within the state to enact an ordinance that would then — by a permit process — allow restaurants with outside dining areas to allow owners and their dog pets to be outside,” D’Uva said. “Currently the city of Winter Garden (and) the city of Orlando … already have an ordinance (and) a permit process. Unincorporated Orange County — like the Gotha area, Dr. Phillips area — does not.”
Florida Statute 509.233 covers the rules for dog-friendly dining at restaurants. Dogs only are allowed at outside dining areas of a restaurant, and the restaurant must have sanitation measures available in case of accidents. Additionally, local municipalities are in charge of regulation and enforcement of the procedures outlined in the statute, among other requirements.
“There are certain things in the state statute that are very specific that would have to be adhered to,” D’Uva said. “Dogs are becoming more compatible everywhere you go, and we’re not talking about service dogs. Of course, service dogs would be allowed inside and outside of an establishment no questions asked, but this is not for the service dog. It’s for just pets.”
D’Uva added she has been working with local officials to allow for dog-friendly dining at restaurants in West Orange.
“We are trying to help our businesses,” D’Uva said. “The chamber board of directors (is) supportive of an ordinance that would allow (dog-friendly dining at restaurants).”
Brad Cornelius, of Wade Trim, works with the town of Windermere and handles planning review and consultations.
“The town’s code is silent to the issue of doggie dining,” Cornelius said. “For doggie dining to be allowed in the town, the town would have to adopt an ordinance that puts in place the specific requirements for doggie dining.”
Chris Testerman, assistant county administrator for Orange County, said the Orange County Board of County Commissioners will have a work session June 5 to address whether to adopt a dog-friendly dining ordinance.
“The board is going to have a work session to see if they want to adopt such an ordinance,” Testerman said. “(At) the work session, we’ll give an overview of the concept and the board will give us direction of where to go from there (and) whether to go forward and draft an ordinance to bring back for public hearings.”
The city of Ocoee also lacks a dog-friendly dining ordinance, however, adopting one may be possible in the future, said City Manager Robert Frank.
“(Although) the issue has come up sporadically in the past, there have been no requests to look into the issue by restaurant owners; most likely due to the lack of sidewalk dining-type areas in the city,” Frank said. “Although we don’t have such an ordinance, this is one issue that will be addressed as the downtown redevelopment project progresses. The plan for downtown includes expanded-width sidewalks and pedestrian areas, so we will be adopting some rules for the use and enjoyment of these areas in the near future.”
Oakland Town Manager Dennis Foltz said the town currently does not have many restaurants. However, he also said a dog-friendly dining ordinance is something that could be considered in anticipation of more restaurants coming to the town.
“The idea of dog-friendly dining is something that we certainly want to consider when we get some restaurants, but it is an issue that has not been raised,” Foltz said. “I’d like for us to be looking at it in anticipation (of more restaurants). I think it would be good for the commission to talk about early on as we’re updating our codes. … We don’t have the restaurants right now.”