Paws should be allowed on patios! In Florida, and in Chicago - among other places in America - if restaurants so choose dogs are allowed to dine al fresco.
And now other cities are attempting to follow, most particularly Houston with a campaign called Paws on Patios.
With ex-Alderman Gene Schulter, the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association and the Chicago Task Force on Companion Animals and Public Safety, I led the charge to legalize allowed dogs on patios and sidewalk cafes at restaurants in Chicago.
The Chicago story is also about revenue. Are you surprised?
Especially in the late 1990's, a trend began for restauranteurs to sometimes look the other way if dogs came by patios or sidewalk cafes. Some restaurants even promoted their pet friendly policies. Soon Chicago City inspectors began to fine these places, randomly (I'm thinking solely for revenue, these fines were not assessed based on complaints). The inspectors cited an antiquated Chicago ordinance which said nothing about dogs or companion animals, but instead referred to allowing chickens outside restaurants. Also, the state law was more specific about not allowing animals in restaurants (not distinguishing outside or not).
So, before changing the City ordinance, the state law had to be 'adjusted' to allow for dogs outside. The City only agreed when they decided to could levy a fee on restaurants for the privilege of allowing dogs. I was then and am still against the fee (which I did manage to convince Aldermen to make more reasonable), the ordinance was ultimately passed a few years back unanimously. Also, dogs must be vaccinated for rabies (which is a state law anyway).
Here are some bullet points which I hope supporters in Houston and elsewhere can use:
- On quality of life scales, seeing dogs on the street, walking dogs, etc. is indicated to enhance a 'good feeling,' making people more comfortable, even happier in their communities. While some people don't like dogs, most people smile just at the sight of a dog. We know that a simple smile creates a happy dance of endorphins.
- Restaurants can use the business, especially in the current economy. Most restaurants are small businesses, and like all small businesses are, overall, suffering. After people get home from work in urban areas, they walk the dog and run errands, being able to stop for food enhances business. Restaurants have not noted a decline in business (if they do they can always stop their dog-friendly ways), and most establishments that allow dogs have seen a gentle increase.
- Some smart restaurants coordinate special promotions in conjunction with animal shelters to raise money for shelters but gain by the publicity, or Fido Friday's (where a drink named for a dog may be half off, for example), or menu items for the dogs. The list of dog friendly events helps to promote the restaurants. Helping restaurants to succeed helps small business, which helps communities.
- Some say that there's a concern about food safety. That's ridiculous - the dogs are not in the kitchen where food is prepared. Most people with dogs (and/or cats) in America - and we're talking many millions of families - eat while their pet is in the kitchen. This has been going on for as long as there have been pets, yet people aren't dropping of illness. As long as you aren't eating from the same plate/bowl, the Centers for Disease control has no issue with this. If there is a danger to eating around animals al fresco it comes from above. Birds don't wear diapers. Also, birds, squirrels and let's just say other rodents who may scamper on tables before and after hours. If there is a health risk to eating outside, it's not from dogs.
- Some say they are concerned about poorly behaved dogs - and certainly some dogs just don't do so great being out in public. Dogs who may be aggressive to other dogs or people, or guard food are not good candidates to take to dog-friendly restaurants. While every once in a while, dogs will be dogs, and there may be 'an issue.' Overall, the restauranteurs tell me overwhelmingly, when it come to being well-behaved most dogs do far better than most children.
- Some say, "I'm allergic" or "I don't like dogs." Truth is allergies or the dander which causes those allergies don't jump off dogs and attack people. In an open air place, a dog won't cause a problem unless the person with allergies touches the dog. Still, if people don't like dogs - fine, there's usually a restaurant down the street. Overall, restauranteurs gain far more business than they lose, but no one forces them to choose a dog-friendly policy, or for patrons to go where dogs are allowed.
Anyway, a nice reminder - Spring is around the corner.....