RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Pet owners across North Carolina don't have to worry about doggy bags anymore. They now can take their furry friends to join them at some of the state's outdoor restaurants.
A new public health rule that took effect Wednesday gives food service establishments the option to permit dogs and cats in outdoor dining areas. Those pets must be restrained, can't come into contact with food or food preparers and can't come inside.
A state panel last month signed off on the rule designed to make clear the presence of cats and dogs won't lower a restaurant's health inspection grade.
The previous rule only allowed patrol dogs and service animals, but it wasn't always interpreted that way.
The updated rule got approved after many restaurants and bars began advertising "pet-friendly" patios.