Dogs could join people at restaurant patios, as New York senate passes bill

While restaurants can choose whether to allow pets – who must be leashed and with their owners at all times – not everyone wants to dine with man’s best friend

New Yorkers out for brunch at a restaurant’s sidewalk table may soon notice marked changes to their dining experience: whimpers from under chairs, noses snuffling at their feet, eyes peering up in hopeful expectation.

New York’s state senate on Wednesday approved by 60-0 a bill that would allow dogs in outdoor sections of restaurants, ending part of the prohibition on animals in restaurants under state health code.

The bill would still ban dogs from entering restaurants or going anywhere that food is prepared, and would require the pets be kept on leashes. Restaurants could choose whether to allow dogs or not; those that do would have to provide a separate entrance for canids and their companions. Dogs would have to be accompanied by their person.

“People view their dogs and cats as family members,” the bill’s sponsor, state senator Kemp Hannon, told the New York Post. “This is going to allow people to go to brunch with their family.”

Cats are not covered by the bill, an omission that has outraged at least one writer for the Albany Times Union, which posed the eternal question: “Can a state be truly free when you can’t take your cat to a restaurant?”

There is however at least one permanent cat café in Manhattan, the Meow Parlour, which rents out time for patrons to mingle with “free roaming cats” as they would in a modernist kennel or the home of an animal hoarder.

Last year, California governor Jerry Brown signed a law that allowed dogs into outdoor dining areas. The New York state assembly will now weigh whether to approve its own bill, which was based on the California precedent.

While dog lovers rejoice at the prospect of enjoying a meal with their hounds at their feet, not all New Yorkers are pleased. Several described visions of dog hair in their coffee, mud tracked everywhere by uncontrollable curs, and streams of drool whipped into the air and on to plates by the excited swivel of a dog’s head.

One New York worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Guardian she didn’t want her experience of a French patio café spoiled by beagles and labradors begging for a bite of escargot.

“There’s enough people in New York,” she said. “We don’t need more animals.”

In a statement, Hannon cited a 2013 study that found that with correct sanitation measures and practices, dogs in outdoor eating areas were a low risk to public health. The New York bill would prohibit communal drinking bowls for dogs but says “single-use disposable containers” are acceptable.

Another New Yorker polled by the Guardian took issue not with the dogs but with owners who feel compelled to take their pets everywhere, saying: “Dogs are absolutely wonderful, but the humans who look after them are appalling.”

Many New York restaurants already allow dogs in outdoor areas, either by defying the current health code or with special exceptions. The Barking Dog, at 3rd Avenue and 94th Street in Manhattan, has one such exception. It has a dog bar, a dog menu and a “doggy fountain” where the animals can socialize.


Alan Yuhas in New York

The GuardianTramp

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