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Animals in food premises

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Animals can carry pathogenic organisms that can contaminate food. They may also contaminate food physically, for example, through fur, droppings and whole insects.

Food businesses are therefore not permitted, except in certain circumstances, to have live animals on the premises:

  • assistance animals must be allowed in areas used by customers
  • pet dogs may be allowed in outdoor dining areas at the discretion of the business
  • live animals (except for seafood, other fish and shellfish) are not permitted in areas where food is handled.

Businesses must maintain high standards of food safety and hygiene to ensure animals do not contaminate food. 

Assistance animals

An assistance animal is a Guide Dog or other animal trained and accredited to help a person with a disability (in Section 9 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992).

Assistance animals must be allowed into dining and drinking areas and any other areas used by customers, but they are not allowed in non-public areas, such as the kitchen.

Refusing entry to an assistance animal is illegal and may result in fines for the business owner.

This is legislated under the:

  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992  
  • Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW)  
  • Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code 

Guide Dogs

Guide Dogs are assistance animals and, by law, are allowed access to any public dining area in cafés, restaurants, pubs and clubs.

When a guidance dog is in harness, it is working and assisting the person who is blind or has low vision to move around safely and independently. 

More information on welcoming Guide Dogs is available on the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT website

Fish, seafood and shellfish

Fish, seafood and shellfish are the only live animals allowed in areas where food is handled.

This means businesses can keep decorative fish in tanks and keep and sell live seafood, fish and shellfish on the premises.

All food must be protected from becoming contaminated by these animals. For example, when cleaning fish tanks the business must ensure food handling areas, such as kitchen sinks and benches, are not contaminated. 

Pet dogs

Under the Food Standards Code, it is up to the business owner to decide whether to let customers have their dogs in outdoor dining areas.

The business can also say under what circumstances the dogs are allowed, for example, dogs must be kept on the ground and on a lead.

Pet dogs may only be permitted in outdoor dining areas that are not enclosed. If an outdoor open dining area is enclosed - even for a short time, such as using café blinds and a retractable awning in winter, dogs are not allowed in it during this time. 

Home-based businesses

No pets or animals (other than fish) are allowed in any food handling areas, such as the kitchen and food storage areas, of a home-based business.

To keep food safe from animals, it is recommended home-based businesses:

  • put up physical barriers to stop animals entering food handling areas (such as self-closing screen doors or child safety gates)  
  • store food in secure rooms or cupboards  
  • when transporting food, make sure no pets are in the vehicle or that there is a suitable physical barrier to protect the food from contamination by pets. 

More information

See Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s guide to the food safety standards, Safe Food Australia. Animals are covered under Standard 3.2.2 clause 24. 

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