For the dog-owned, few things are as nice as romping around your favorite locale with a canine friend — taking a walk, throwing a ball and meeting up with fellow dogs. But historically, dogs have been banned from restaurants, including patios, for public health reasons. In California, that’s about to change, leaving many woofing with delight.
Of course, for residents of San Francisco, where you can hardly toss a ball without finding a dog casually lounging on a restaurant or bar patio, this is already old news, but for the rest of the state, it could revolutionize the restaurant experience, and make it a lot easier to spend your life with a dog.
The bill, just signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, was introduced by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada. It amends the state code to allow dogs on restaurant patios across the state, normalizing laws to put them in line with establishments that have already been casually violating the existing ban on dogs at restaurants. Should a city want to ban dogs at food facilities, it can also do so within the framework of the law; it’s simply flipping the status quo from “no dogs allowed” to “come on in.”
Under the law, which takes effect next year, patios must have separate entrances so canine patrons don’t go through the restaurant itself. Beyond that, it’s up to individual cities and restaurants to set their own dog policies, depending on their needs and preferences. One assumes that as with unruly hominid patrons, canines can also be politely shown the door if they fail to behave or disrupt other diners. In addition, the law prohibits the presence of dogs in food preparation areas, for health and hygiene areas. As long as dogs behave and stick to their part of the restaurant, however, they’re a welcome and legal part of the atmosphere.
This is great news for dog owners who struggle to find ways to socialize and meet up with friends while still caring for their dogs — many don’t want to, or can’t, leave their pets at home. It may also cut down on the number of people attempting to claim that a dog is a service animal when it’s not, which will make access much easier for disabled people who sometimes struggle with challenges from restaurant owners and other members of the public when it comes to being in public with their service dogs. (Service animals, again, are not pets — and while it’s perfectly legal to bar dogs from an establishment, it is not legal to bar service animals, although they can be asked to leave if they are disruptive.)
Those with dog allergies might not be entirely pleased, especially in the case of those with severe allergies. However, dogs will not be allowed indoors, ensuring that they won’t be in enclosed spaces where they could exacerbate allergies and make people uncomfortable.
Furthermore, restaurant owners with allergies or other concerns will retain the right to ban dogs from all areas of their facilities, including patios — the legislation doesn’t mandate that restaurants provide open access to all dogs. (They will, however, be required to continue accommodating service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
As of January 1, dog owners across California can enjoy eating out on restaurant patios without feeling like they’re flaunting the law, and the facilities that welcome dogs won’t have to do so covertly, out of fear that a dog-hating patron will report them to the health department. It’s good news for dogs, and for owners — people won’t have to choose between their dogs and going out to socialize any more.