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Dog-Friendly Bars Win Legal Battle Against Florida Department of Health

2023

In a victory for dog lovers, Judge Lynne Quimby-Pennock has ruled in favor of two dog-friendly bars in Tampa and Orlando. These establishments can now keep welcoming four-legged patrons after the Florida Department of Health's attempt to block dogs was overruled. The judge's 29-page order highlighted that the Department had failed to properly revise a rule to enforce the ban.

The case revolved around sanitation certificates issued by county health departments, overseen by the state Department of Health. Pups Pub Tampa and Pups Pub Orlando had received sanitation certificates with the condition that they wouldn't serve food. The bars had also implemented measures, like installing gates, to keep dogs away from drink-service areas.

Despite complying with the guidelines, Pups Pub Tampa received a violation citation in June 2022 for allowing dogs on the premises. Similarly, Pups Pub Orlando, which got its sanitation certificate in July 2022, faced a violation citation less than a month later.

Judge Quimby-Pennock noted that the Department had allowed dog bars to operate in other counties previously, such as Duval and Palm Beach. She underscored that the Department didn't properly follow the process to adopt a rule prohibiting dogs in bars.

The judge's order stated that the Department must stop relying on the revised interpretation of the rule. It revealed that evidence clearly showed the Department had previously interpreted the rule to allow dogs in bars, with specific restrictions. However, in mid-2022, the Department changed its stance to ban dogs in bars.

The Department of Health, in a document dated May 22, argued it hadn't altered its interpretation, claiming actions against the bars were based on the existing rule's plain language, not on a new rule.

The ruling is a significant win for the dog-friendly bars and their customers who enjoy spending time with their furry companions while sipping on a drink. With Judge Quimby-Pennock's decision, these bars can continue operating with their dog-friendly policies intact.

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