Suzie Paton votes to keep the pets

Our dogs Monty and Mojo were less than impressed when I told them of the EU directive, which was going to mean we’d have to remove their beds from the kitchen. From now on they wouldn’t be able to take their afternoon snooze in front of the Aga.

You may have read in the national media recently about this latest piece of EU legislation to affect B&Bs. The newspapers were largely in support of the bed-and-breakfasts, which have to ban their pets from the kitchen and eating areas. Apparently in some counties, health inspectors have already enforced the legislation and some farmhouse landladies have threatened closure rather than evict family pets.

There was much wailing and howling from our dogs, I can tell you, and to be fair they have a point. Being a farmhouse canine doesn’t mean you pose a high risk of contamination to any of the food surfaces or preparation areas.

I am aware of my hygienic responsibilities not to poison my visitors and have up-to-date food hygiene certification, plus a risk assessment on the handling of foods. I have even put my foot down when my three children thought it a great wheeze to bring pet lambs and chickens into the house.

The question is where does it go from here? Will it soon be necessary to put my children in clean white protective boiler suits, blue hair nets, white hats and plastic gloves before they enter the kitchen to eat their breakfast on a freshly sterilised stainless steel table? After all, if we are to treat our kitchens as high-risk food preparation areas, the family must be as much a contamination threat as the four-legged family members.

The reason most of my visitors book in is because they want to feel they are coming into a home. That means they expect to find pets loitering about the place. If we receive letters from our guests thanking us for their stay, more often than not the dogs are acknowledged, and we’ve even had photos sent of our pets.

Last week we had a family of seven from Sweden. Five children in one room and two exhausted parents in another. They had been touring the UK for a few days. Farming stock themselves, the children particularly had become a bit homesick and missed their animals, so our Jack Russell was good company for the youngest members of the tribe.

The legislation is, if you’ll excuse the pun, barking mad. Common sense dictates that a farmhouse B&B should not be listed in the same category as a hotel or restaurant, and therefore I am voting in favour of allowing the pets to stay in the house.

As I write this at the kitchen table, Tom has just walked in having been cleaning out the last of the grain stores ready for harvest and is heading for the biscuit tin.

It’s hard to make out any familiar human features through the thick layer of dirt and grime. Never mind banning the farm dogs from the kitchen, there could be an argument for banning the farmer.

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