There is great news for dog owners in the United States as there are now being laws passed in many states and cities so that it is no longer illegal for your dog to join you on the patio of a bar or restaurant. What is surprising about this is that most people were unaware that it was ever illegal to do this, so many dog owners have unknowingly been breaking the law by taking their pet out for lunch with them and then sitting on the patio.
It is fairly common in warmer weather to see diners sitting outside with their dogs to enjoy a meal or a drink. In most cases, the restaurant or bar owners do not mind and there has definitely been a culture shift towards creating pet-friendly environments in the United States. This shift reflects the feelings of the public as pets are becomingly an increasingly important aspect of people’s lives. This is reflected in the figures for what people spend on their pets. Between 1994 and 2018, this has risen from $17 billion to an estimated $72 billion.
However, health codes mean that many places cannot have dogs on their premises, with the exception of service dogs. Currently, there are only nine states that have laws allowing dogs to visit bars and restaurants. Despite the laws, many restaurant and bar owners have simply been allowing people to bring their dogs anyway to keep their customers happy.
While some of these business owners were fully aware that they were breaking the law, there are others who either had no idea the law existed or that believed they were operating in a gray area. That was until some states began to enforce the law. One example of this is Washington D.C. where officials began to enforce the law by sending out warning letters to restaurants and bars that were violating the rules regarding animals in restaurants and bars. The intention of this was to make the businesses cooperate with the health codes of the city.
However, the enforcement got a rather different response than the officials had expected as public backlash against the laws grew. People were outraged, and this forced the officials to look again at the rules. Following the backlash, Washington D.C. City Council decided to change the rules so that dogs were allowed in the outdoor spaces of bars and restaurants. Several other places have also recently changed their rules following a similar pattern. They would receive a small number of complaints and respond by trying to enforce the law. This would then spur a negative reaction from large numbers of the public and result in them changing the law to allow dogs in outdoor areas.
The perfect example of this is what happened in Columbus, Ohio. The Franklin County Health Department received a record number of complaints relating to dogs in patio areas. They usually receive just one or two complaints a year but last year they received 17. IN response, they reminded business owners of the law. Rather than complying with the law, a petition against the law was started and more than 12,000 people signed it.
Of course, not everyone is pleased with these changes in the law. One woman wrote to her local newspaper in Cincinnati complaining about the changes and said that officials were just pandering to a handful of dog lovers. She said that it completely disregarded the needs of people like her who could not be around dogs for health reasons or those people who simply prefer not to eat in the same place as animals.
It is not just bars and restaurants that are making these changes as a number of vineyards are also now allowing dogs. People have argued that it is perfectly safe for beverages to be made in an area that dogs visit. One vineyard owner said that they had staff on hand to deal with any accidents and that the wine production areas were never contaminated at any point. Although the laws are now changing, it remains a controversial issue with some people who are massively supportive of the changes in the laws and others who are completely against having dogs in any area of a bar or restaurant. This is a situation when the officials cannot possibly please everybody and must simply try to create laws that are reasonable to both parties.