She couldn’t find a good list of dog-friendly places in SLC, so she started making one

Brandy Chenoweth, with her golden retriever Scout, checks out locations for Dog Friendly SLC.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brandy Chenoweth is joined by Scout, her 5-year-old golden retriever, as they check out Café Juniper, located inside the Church & State building in Salt Lake City, on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

As internet celebrities go, Scout is more relaxed than most. And fluffier.

Scout is a 5-year-old golden retriever who has teamed up with his owner, Brandy Chenoweth, on a mission — one they have taken often over the past four years under the online label Dog Friendly SLC — to find out if places are good for a dog to hang out.

On this snowy day, the place being explored is Cafe Juniper, the coffee shop that recently moved into the Church & State building at 370 S. 300 East in Salt Lake City. A business incubator that was once a house of worship, the building has a tall ceiling, stained glass windows, strings of light bulbs and a wide-open coffee shop vibe — a by-the-book definition of a cafe.

Is it dog-friendly? Scout’s initial reaction is positive.

Chenoweth said Scout generally has a desperate need for attention, and he has already made friends with a man sitting in a leather armchair near the entrance.

Scout has a brief, friendly encounter with Fella, a dog with scraggly white fur who is about a quarter of Scout’s size. Fella and his owner, Diederic Meintsma, are regulars at the cafe.

Scout greets a few other patrons, then settles down on one of the beat-up tan couches in the center of the Church & State space. “He’s a very chill boy,” Chenoweth said. “He can’t be bothered.” Eventually, though, she coaxes Scout to sit on the floor.

Chenoweth and Scout have scoped out dozens of businesses, and reported on their capacity to allow dogs, on the DogFriendlySLC Instagram account, which has nearly 15,000 followers, as well as a TikTok account with nearly 9,000 followers and a website.

Chenoweth posted on March 30 about Cafe Juniper, pointing out that “health code prohibits dogs in coffee shops... but it doesn’t prohibit dogs in co-working spaces that happen to have coffee shops.”

“They’re going to be flooded with dogs for at least two weeks,” Chenoweth said, “which is exciting and terrifying.”

It’s happened with other dog-friendly spots that Chenoweth and Scout have visited, as they have made their hobby of seeking out such locations in Salt Lake City — benefitting dog owners and local businesses alike.

In February, Chenoweth posted about a visit to a dog-only pool. When she called later to book Scout for a swim, she said, the pool had a three-week wait list.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fella, a regular at Café Juniper inside the Church and State building in Salt Lake City, is joined by Scout, a 5-year-old golden retriever as he and his owner Brandy Chenoweth check out the location on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

A hunt for information

Chenoweth grew up in Boise, a city she described as “super dog-friendly” so it never occurred to her that it would be any different in Salt Lake City. That is, until she got here.

“What would happen is we would go hiking in the morning, and then we would want to go to brunch afterwards,” said Chenoweth, who works in software sales. “We would do a Google search, like, ‘dog-friendly patios in Salt Lake City,’ I would find something, and that something would turn out not to be dog-friendly.”

Chenoweth said, “I couldn’t find accurate information on where dogs could go.” Even a nationally known website, known for its trove of dog-friendly information, wasn’t entirely accurate for Salt Lake City, she said.

So Chenoweth started working on finding those places in Salt Lake City — with Scout as her, well, scout — and reporting her findings on Instagram, TikTok and the website. A third iteration of the website launched in early April, after Chenoweth partnered with a local agency.

“If they’re looking for a dog park with water or a dog park with shade, or if they’re looking for a patio that offers a vegetarian menu or gluten-free menu, they’re going to be able to filter more tailored to their needs, as opposed to just saying, ‘Here’s a generic list of dog-friendly patios,’” Chenoweth said.

What makes a place or event dog-friendly, Chenoweth said, comes down to a choice by the people in charge.

“There are pretty strict rules about where dogs can go,” Chenoweth said. Pointing to her surroundings at Cafe Juniper, she said, “today, we’re here. Dogs aren’t allowed in coffee shops, but dogs are allowed in co-working spaces, which we’re sitting in.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brandy Chenoweth is joined by her dog Scout, a 5-year-old golden retriever as they check out Café Juniper, located inside the Church and State building in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

Is Utah dog-friendly?

When she moved to Salt Lake City, Chenoweth said, she didn’t find it particularly dog-friendly, because of regulations in Utah that don’t exist in surrounding states. (According to the Animal Legal & Historical Center at Michigan State University, 23 states have laws or regulations that allow dogs on outdoor patios. Utah is not on that list, but Colorado and New Mexico are.)

In Utah, Chenoweth said, “the health code prohibits dogs from having any sort of food on a patio. Not only human food — which I certainly think there can be a case made for that — but you technically can’t even give dog’s a dog treat on a patio.”

Nicholas Rupp, spokesperson for the Salt Lake County Health Department, confirmed that Utah has a rule prohibiting dogs from restaurant patios. However, the Salt Lake County Board of Health has approved a variance option that allows food-service establishments to have dogs on their outdoor dining patios.

Part of getting that variance, Rupp said, is to make sure the dog has had a rabies vaccine, is in control and other common sense things — but another requirement is that dogs are not allowed to eat on the patio.

Restaurants with patio spaces must register with the Salt Lake County Health Department for permits and approvals to have dogs. The 2022 list named 44 approved businesses; the 2023 list is expected to be released in late April, Rupp said, because the permit is seasonal. Rupp estimated that 90% of the establishments renew every year, and the county tends to add more locations rather than take any away.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brandy Chenoweth is joined by her dog named Scout, a 5-year-old golden retriever as they check out Café Juniper, located inside the Church and State building in Salt Lake City, as a potential dog friendly location on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

Patio regulations

Chenoweth said the biggest thing Salt Lake County can do to make places more dog-friendly is to relax the rules regarding having dogs on patios.

“I’ve run into a lot of businesses who feel that the process to become a certified dog-friendly patio is burdensome,” she said.

Rupp said the issue around certifying dog-friendly patios is technical because of something in the federal regulations called a hazard analysis and critical control point, or HACCP, a documentation approach to food safety hazards. Businesses and other venues have to go through this HACCP plan, Rupp said, to document they have the knowledge and training to keep people safe when they’re doing things that might pose a greater health risk — like having a dog sit by your table.

“Eating with animals, because of the potential for the spread of disease, is one of those things,” he said. “It does provide us, as the guardians of public health and the public, with a little bit of security knowing that if it’s a dog patio, it does have that tiny little extra level of safety checks.”

Another factor in making a place dog-friendly, Chenoweth said, is space — so multiple dogs can be in the same place without getting into conflict. (This is particularly important, she said, for dogs like Scout, whom she calls a giant.) It’s also important, she said, for a place to be flexible with their on-leash and off-leash rules, because there’s a time and a place for both.

Ultimately, Chenoweth said, it comes down to business owners or other humans wanting dogs around — and recognizing that, for some, dogs can be controversial, and that isn’t usually the dogs’ fault.

“It’s important that we continue to promote responsible dog ownership,” she said.

Chenoweth said she doesn’t consider herself or Scout dog-influencers, though she likes capturing content of Scout and sharing it with others, which has led to the pair making new friends all around Salt Lake City.

“At the heart of everything, I’m just a girl who wanted to take her dog to brunch,” she said. “We do this because we genuinely believe in building community.”

It’s a community that encompasses dogs, their owners and those lucky passersby who get to pet them.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Scout, a 5-year-old golden retriever, puts up with some of the props his owner Brandy Chenoweth uses when she photographs him inside potential dog friendly locations on Thursday, March 30, 2023. The duo who recently visited Café Juniper have developed and grown their Instagram account — DogFriendlySLC — with nearly 15,000 followers, a TikTok account with nearly 9,000 followers and a website.

Brandy and Scout’s Top Five Dog-Friendly Places in Utah

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