NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- It's not uncommon to see pets in local breweries. In fact, the Virginia Tourism Corporation promotes many breweries as being ‘pet friendly’ despite a state law that aims to keep dogs out of these establishments.
“We have a lot of fun here at O'Connor's Brewing,” says Kevin O’Connor with O’Connor Brewing Company. “All walks of life coming in here just hanging out and having a good time.”
That includes those who walk on four feet, not just two.
“We’ve had everything from pigs, little piglets in here. We've had giant iguanas in here. We've had cats. We've seen birds,” O’Connor says.
But he’s mostly seen dogs but not anymore because no animals, except service ones, are allowed inside breweries. That's according to a decades-old state law, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences is now enforcing after it investigated complaints about dogs inside a brewery in Roanoke.
“We have over 150 breweries in Virginia right now and I guarantee you not one of them has ever been told that you cannot have dogs until recently,” O’Connor says.
Dogs can’t be inside breweries, but the law does now permit them to be outside in designated areas.
“The concerns are primarily about sanitation - pet hair, drool or slobber, feces, vomit, etc. inside places where food is manufactured or stored. they are hardly sanitary creatures and there is an ever-present possibility of food contamination from the pets. Food contamination is a very serious issue for all of us, but even more so for the very young, the very old, people with compromised immune systems, etc.” Elaine Lindholm with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences told 13News by email.
“It is what it is and it's a law that we have to abide by,” O’Connor says. “I think people will still come and if they want to bring their dog like this gentleman he'll sit outside and have a beer.”
As for enforcement, VDACS will first “strive for compliance rather than punishment,” Lindholm says. “On rare occasions people persist with practices or conditions that violate the food laws, and on those occasions, we can hand over the case to the local Commonwealth’s Attorney. It is then in his or her hands for resolution, not ours.”