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A sign placed on the front window of Bagel Street Deli in AthensFeb. 15, 2024.

Businesses in Athens strive to be pet-friendly

Athens is home to a variety of local and corporate businesses. For many, finding a store or restaurant that allows people to shop or dine with their pets can be challenging. Stores like Walmart and Starbucks have service dog-only policies, closing off their establishments to pets. 

Navigating the policies and codes put in place to restrict pets in public spaces while wanting to be a welcoming environment for pets and pet parents can be difficult for businesses. Donkey Coffee, a local Athens favorite, is as pet-friendly as it can be while staying in compliance with the Ohio Health Code. Chris Pyle, owner of Donkey Coffee, says the establishment has always wanted to be pet-friendly.

“We were more pet-friendly until we got in trouble with code,” Pyle said. “So we allow people to come in with their dogs, order and then they have to leave with their dogs unless it’s a service animal.” 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals must be permitted into public spaces including restaurants and stores. 

Pyle says that when people bring their pets into Donkey, even for that briefly allowed period of time, the atmosphere changes. 

“People just flip out and it just makes their day,” said Pyle. 

While Donkey complies with the rules set by health code regulations, Jackie O’s Brewery, another local Athens business, has found ways to work around them at its taproom location.

“All the food is brought in from elsewhere, or it’s on the food trucks,” said Andrew Oestrike, president of Jackie O’s. 

Ohio Administrative Code allows for pet dogs in outdoor dining areas as long as the area is separate from indoor areas and food service operations. By sourcing their food from food trucks or other places separate from their dining area, Jackie O’s has found a way to make their establishment pet-friendly while still following health code rules and regulations. 

“We always aspire to be pet friendly,” said Oestrike. “If dogs are well-behaved, I think people love it.” 

Some people, notably those who are passionate about their pets, will bring their animal into any establishment regardless of clearly stated service animal policies. However, others abide by the rules and feel that all stores and public spaces should be open to service animals only. 

Avipsha Banerjee, a sophomore studying astrophysics, math and computer science, believes all businesses should be pet-friendly. 

“If they’re kept under control and they’re not actually destroying any property then they should not have any obligation against it,” Banerjee said. 

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