Dogs and Health |
Many of my students are dog lovers. They wonder why pets are not allowed to accompany their owners into markets or even to the patios of restaurants. The restaurant owners say it is "Health Dept. Code" because dogs are dangerous to humans. My students, who all have pets at home, don't understand. Having traveled around the world to many places that welcome well-behaved pets, I don't know how to answer their question. Is there scientific evidence that dogs are a health hazard to humans?
Scientifically, the only thing you could say is that dogs can carry parasites (particularly roundworms and hookworms) that are contagious to children or people with immune deficiencies.
You could also say that they live close to the ground, pick things up on their paws and coat and then can easily transfer those things to humans by interacting with them.
But all that's really just an excuse. The real reason is prejudice against dogs. Certainly dogs are no more dirty or infectious than our shoes may be, but no place asks you to take off your shoes before entering a restaurant. Nobody checks personal hygiene or health status before allowing you into a restaurant. It's just laws written by people who didn't like dogs. And it's the law in most places. Even Europe is changing in this direction.
Phillip Raclyn, DVM CVA
Dogs (and other animals) can carry a number of diseases that can be transmitted to humans, including some that can cause foodborne diseases. Most health codes prohibit all dogs except service dogs and guide dogs from coming into restaurants. Interestingly, Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington D.C., decided in June of 2004 to allow dogs to be in outdoor patios with their owners, if the restaurant owners apply for permission to the health department and make sure that the dogs are on leases, don't eat or drink from tableware, and a few other similar requirements.
Laura Hungerford, DVM, MPH, PhD
University of Maryland
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Update: June 2012