Gone to the dogs: B.C.’s ban on dogs in breweries needs to go

It’s illegal for breweries and pubs in B.C. to allow dogs inside due to health regulations, but many brewery owners would like to see that changed. iStock photo

In the past few months I’ve done a fair bit of travelling, and I’ve noticed something. When I was down in the U.S. and stopped in at some of my favourite breweries, there were dogs in the tasting rooms. And when I was in Scotland in June, there they were again: dogs in the breweries and the pubs. And it was awesome.

The puppers were all well behaved and I even got a few doggy cuddles in. It totally added to the homey, community-centric atmosphere of the tasting room, and it was a great ice-breaker to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.

So why is it, then, that you never see dogs in breweries here in B.C.? Are craft brewers a bunch of dog-hating jerks? Even worse, are they cat people? Given how many breweries are named after dogs, I doubt that’s the case.

(Just kidding, I love cats, please don’t send me angry emails, cat people.)

As it turns out, the local health authorities here in B.C. have effectively banned dogs from pubs and brewery tasting rooms. Under the Food Premises Regulation of the B.C. Public Health Act, it states, “an operator of food premises must not permit live animals to be on the premises.” Guide dogs and service dogs are cool, so long as they’re not in the food preparation area, and fish in an aquarium also get a pass, but beyond that, only animals that “a health officer determines will not pose a risk of a health hazard occurring on the premises” are permitted.

And that means no dogs, as countless breweries have found out.

By the way, breweries are considered a food premises because they manufacture and sell a “processed substance intended for human consumption.” So they get lumped in with sushi restaurants and buffets, despite the fact that beer is considered to be “microbiologically safe” as the presence of alcohol, hop bittering compounds and carbon dioxide kill off foodborne pathogens.

Yellow Dog Brewing originally allowed dogs into their tasting room, but a complaint to Fraser Health put a stop to that.

“We let it go and unluckily someone from Fraser Health came in for a beer, so that was the end of that,” says owner Mike Coghill. “They hold your health occupancy, so we had no choice. If we got caught again they could have shut us down.”

Yellow Dog was named after Coghill’s golden retriever Chase, which meant Chase couldn’t even set paw in the brewery that was named after him.

Coghill says the reasoning he was given for why dogs aren’t allowed in the brewery is that they are considered “allergens.”

Which is pretty strange, considering some of the places you are allowed to bring your dog. Like hospitals and care facilities, for example.

“We love dogs, I think people treat dogs like family, and if tasting rooms are supposed to be family-friendly, they should be allowed,” says Coghill. “Other retail businesses, you’re allowed to bring your dog in. I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to.”

As a former dog owner and current father of a 19-month-old child, I can anecdotally attest to the fact that some dogs are cleaner and better behaved than some children. Most children, if I’m being honest. Certainly mine. Yet it’s totally OK to bring my little snot-nosed disease vector to the tasting room, while the dog has to stay outside.

Some breweries still allow dogs on their patio, but that’s technically not allowed, at least not by Vancouver Coastal Health—unless you get special permission for an event like Red Truck’s sure-to-be-awesome Barks + Brews shindig this Saturday (July 28).

Recently Cannery Brewing in Penticton had to ban dogs from their tasting room after someone complained to Interior Health.

“We were grateful for the three years we did get to let dogs inside,” Cannery Brewing Company owner Pat Dyck told the Penticton Herald.

As a result, community members have rallied by the popular brewery, with one patron even starting a petition to get Interior Health to change its rules.

“This is—or was—one of the best things in Penticton, now gone because of one complaint,” states Mickey Clark, who organized the petition. “This decision by the health department will continue to degrade and impact the lives of all dog lovers.”

I’m with Mickey. The provincial government needs to remove the ban on dogs in breweries and let brewery owners decide if they want to allow dogs in the tasting room. Dog owners should be allowed to enjoy delicious craft beer without having to abandon their fur baby outside, tied to a pole (which is also illegal in Vancouver and many other municipalities). That’s a hell of a way to treat your best friend.

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