If there’s one truth in this Universe that truth is “there are no bad dogs.”

Unfortunately, the health codes and laws don’t always agree with that truth. As a result, a handful of District restaurants and bars that allow puppers on patios are seeing a Department of Health crackdown.

According to two posts on POPville, the most recent casualties are Wonderland Ballroom in Colombia Heights and The Midlands in Park View. Previously, both establishments welcomed well-behaved canines on their outdoor patios. The Midlands even has a well-loved resident patio pup named “Andy” (who’s been evicted). That’s Andy and a friend below. Andy is on the left.

The Midlands
In a Facebook post, The Midlands said the DOH inspector told the establishment the reason for the increased enforcement was due to a complaint they received in connection with a Wahington Post article about dogs on patios.

We’ve searched WaPo for a “dogs on patios” article but didn’t come up with anything. However, it’s likely the inspector simply got the source wrong. One of the easiest ways for any publication to drive traffic is to write a dog-friendly bars post. We’re certainly guilty of writing our share of “dog-friendly DC” posts, but we aren’t alone.

dogs in bars

The problem with all of these articles, including the one we wrote more than a year ago (¯\_(ツ)_/¯ we intended to bring joy, not be NARCs), is they fail to mention it is technically a health code violation to allow non-service dogs on patios where food is being served. Until recently, it hasn’t been a heavily enforced law but we all know that one bad human can ruin the fun for everyone. This isn’t as big an issue in some of our sister cities like San Francisco and New York City where they’ve softened the laws and have become more dog/patio friendly.

However, this recent crackdown could spark changes in DC laws. POPville reports Ward 6 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who sits on the Committee on Health, is taking the dogs on patios issue seriously, so seriously they’re working on “emergency legislation.”

I am CM Nadeau’s legislative counsel on health. We are working on emergency legislation regarding the issue of dogs on restaurant patios. We have already met with Councilmember Gray’s office earlier this morning and started discussions about what the legislation would need to address. If there are any particular concerns you have that we should keep in mind while working on this, please feel free to let me know. We will certainly keep you updated as we make progress.

Apparently, if you want to get something done quickly in DC you just need to add dogs.

Why do cities ban dogs from patios when all dogs are good dogs?

Good question! Primarily, there are three reasons.

  1. When many of those laws were passed we didn’t have a strong understanding of dog/human health. According to small animal veterinarian Dr. Eva Evans, “a healthy dog that is fully vaccinated and on a monthly parasite prevention, such as Heartgard, Interceptor, Sentinel, or Advantage Multi will pose an extremely low risk to human health.” Of course, the additional caveat is owners need to be mindful of where they allow dogs to put their waste. As long as it’s kept far away from the dining area it shouldn’t be a problem.
  2. There are no bad dogs but there are bad owners. Most owners know if they have a dog who would work well in a patio environment. A good owner with a dog who doesn’t love being around other dogs or has anxiety around groups. Those owners, the good ones, will either leave that anxious dog at home or at the least be mindful of the ebb and flow of the patio. Allowing dogs on a patio is a business decision and if a patron gets bit by an agitated non-service pup the business could be held liable. And, of course, not every owner follows the recommendations when it comes to keeping a healthy hound.
  3. Allergies. Some people are tragically allergic to dog dander, urine, or saliva. It could create an uncomfortable human experience if a restaurant often hosts patio dogs but doesn’t spray it down often.

The Midlands


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