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Ease Omaha Dog-friendly Patio Restrictions for Small Businesses

This petition had 591 supporters

Up until last August, it was against Douglas County Health code for dogs to legally be on restaurant and bar patios in Omaha. However, our health department officials saw the demand for a change and created a variance that amended that law which would allow restaurant businesses to apply for a permit to allow this.

Which is great, right? Not really. The reality is that while the health department thought they were doing restaurants a solid in creating this new variance; these businesses cannot afford the costs associated with the permit. While the permit of $100 annually is affordable, the variance regulation checklist process and costs associated with insurance, training, portable wash station and signage is too costly for small businesses. Those businesses with permits have reported a $3000 total cost. Some can’t even apply due to how their patio was built (most of the Old Market) and bars are not allowed to apply at all.

Only THREE Omaha restaurants have filed and been able to afford the permit, all are corporate restaurants. The rest are forgoing due to costs and health department is threatening them with fees because they are still allowing dogs on their patios. 

The city of New York’s Dining with Dogs bill recently eased back on their regulations due to unrealistic expectations for small businesses. Business owners are now only required to post signs stating that dogs must be licensed and vaccinated for rabies.

If a city with a larger population has reasoning to ease rules and cut costs for this health matter, we should consider following their model. Their health department also does not charge them ANY fees for permits.

This is an unfortunate step backwards in our progression in making Omaha a more dog-friendly city. If you want to advocate to change these laws, we need your voice! Email, call or message our health department and tell them to please revise the dog-friendly patio variance to reduce all costs associated for small businesses and allow bars to participate. 

And sign the petition!

Contact: Joe Gaube, Acting Supervisor Food & Drink

 Valid reasoning for dogs on patios:

  • Dogs are important life-companions and are often a catalyst to positive social interactions.
  • Drives consumerism and allows businesses access to an untapped customer base. 
  • Creates an attractive, urban environment for residents and potential residents.
  • Outdoor patios represent an environment where vaccinated dogs do not pose health or sanitary concerns.
  • Promotes health benefits include exercise of walking to local establishments with dogs.
  • Pigeons, rodents, crows, etc already frequent patios, and this is not a health issue.

Actual variance from DCHD:

The highlights:

The NY law document:

Article that details changes and why:


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Jeannie Holmes needs your help with “Joe Gaube Douglas County Health Dept: Ease Omaha Dog-friendly Patio Restrictions to Enable More Business to Apply for a Permit”. Join Jeannie and 590 supporters today.