Should dogs be allowed in pubs? This Nova Scotian brewer thinks do

Ian Lawson, co-owner of Brightwood Brewery: ‘We believe dogs are family members’

People stand with their dogs in front of Brightwood Market in Dartmouth, N.S. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Ian Lawson)

A Halifax craft brewer has launched a petition to bring pooches into his pub, saying the province’s regulations are too unfriendly to dogs.

Ian Lawson, co-owner of Brightwood Brewery, says an anonymous complaint led a provincial inspector to order an end to his practice of allowing patrons to bring dogs into his establishment.

The 34-year-old entrepreneur said in an interview that dogs are valued companions who should be welcome in the taproom, provided they are friendly and under control.

“We believe dogs are family members,” he said in an interview on Monday. “It’s part of the craft brewing culture to be able to sit down and have a pint with your dog.”

Lawson adds he accepts regulations requiring that animals be kept away from food preparation areas for health and safety reasons.

However, his petition is calling on the province’s Environment Department to rewrite regulations that ban animals — other than service animals and aquarium fish — from the entire restaurant premises.

In the case of his pub, food preparation is limited to reheating meat pies and samosas — and the dogs were required to stay out of the area where the dishes were prepared.

Nova Scotia regulations clearly state, ”An operator must not permit any live animal to be in a food establishment,” with the exception of ”a guide animal, if permitting the guide animal to enter does not pose a risk of contaminating the food.”

The craft brewer said he’d like to see the rules changed to give inspectors latitude to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the presence of dogs poses any risk to food safety.

He cites legislation in B.C., which allows exemptions for “any other animal that a health officer determines will not pose a risk of a health hazard occurring on the premises.”

Meribeth Burton, a spokeswoman for the Health Department in B.C., wrote in an email: ”Our legislation does allow for animals in food establishments. However, it is not commonplace in British Columbia.” She said it is ultimately up to health authorities and their inspection teams to make a judgment call.

READ MORE: Boy’s service dog bounced from B.C. trampoline park

A spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Envirnoment Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawson said dogs had caused no problems since he opened in October 2018, other than a single incident of a dog that was barking and snarling. The owner was asked to leave after he refused to put the dog on a leash.

Since the inspector’s visit two weeks ago, the brew pub has been turning dogs away, fearing the loss of its wider operating licence if it doesn’t comply.

Lawson estimated about 30 people and their dogs have been told they can’t come in since the inspector’s visit, adding that he misses seeing them.

“It brought everyone joy being able to see a happy dog, and give the dog a pat on the head,” he said. “The good possibilities outweigh the bad.”

His petition on change.org had attracted more than 2,000 signatures Monday afternoon.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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