State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D), a longtime animal-rights advocate who ran a campaign to stop cats from being declawed, has proposed legislation that would allow dogs to join their owners at outdoor cafes in the state of New York.
“You see how many people have dogs in New York City, and they take their dogs with them in their daily lives,” Rosenthal told the New York Post. “People view their dogs and cats as family members. This is going to allow people to go to brunch with their family.”
That may be the epitome of logic to Rosenthal, but Assemblyman Richard Gottfried is going to be a tough sell. As far as the Manhattan Democrat is concerned, someone’s dog is the last thing in the world he wants to see while dining at a sidewalk cafe.
“Some dogs are tall enough that all they would have to do is turn their heads and they would be eating off people’s plates,” he said.
If there have to be dogs at outdoor cafes, Gottfried thinks it would be a better idea to let local municipalities make the doggy-dining decision for themselves rather than issuing an edict from Albany.
The New York State Health Department law concerning dogs in restaurants in the state of New York is actually a matter of debate. There is no doubt dogs can’t go inside a restaurant where food is being prepared or served, unless the dog offers support to the owner. That could be a seeing-eye dog or even a dog that offers emotional support.
But beyond that, the state law seems to leave the decision of allowing dogs to sit with their owners at outdoor cafes up to the restaurant owners, at least according to the most ardent dog supporters.
The legislation proposed by Rosenthal in the New York Assembly and companion legislation that sailed through the state Senate without opposition in mid-May would make it the restaurant owners’ right to decide a matter of state law.
“Bring your dog w/you when you dine! Pass my Assembly bill to allow that choice,” Rosenthal tweeted over Memorial Day Weekend.
Under the legislation approved by the Senate, restaurant owners would get to decide if dogs would be allowed to sit with their owners at outside cafes. But they would have to provide a separate entrance for the canines, and the dogs would have to be kept on a leash.
Not everyone was thrilled with the idea when WCBS-TV sent a reporter to the Upper West Side of New York City to ask for opinions.
“Dogs are on the streets, and they’re like stepping on dog poop and pee and everything, and then that is on the restaurant,” said one New Yorker who was disgusted by the idea.
The question of whether it is unhealthy to let dogs near humans at outdoor cafes has not been settled.
Sen. Kemp Hannon (R), who sponsored the legislation in the New York Senate, cited a National Center for Biotechnology Information study that showed sitting beside a dog at dinner shouldn’t hurt too much.
“While pets are known carriers of bacteria and parasites, among others, the relative risk associated with specific pet-human interactions in the dining public has yet to be established in a clear and consistent manner. Much of the available health-risk-factor evidence reflects pets in domestic conditions and interaction with farm animals. Special consideration is recommended for vulnerable populations such as children, asthmatics, the elderly, pregnant women, and the immunocompromised,” the study concluded.
New York would not be the first state in the nation to let a family take their dog to brunch. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who is a dog owner, signed similar legislation into law in 2014.
Johan Engman, the owner of the Fig Tree Cafe in California, had a sad story about what happened to a dog who got in the way at his restaurant that New York restaurant owners should read before they decide to open their sidewalk cafes to dogs.
“If a dog is in the middle of the patio, waiters can fall over them,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “In one instance, a waiter accidentally stepped on a dog’s tail and that wasn’t good.”
Another warning for would-be New York dog-friendly restaurant owners: There is always the possibility that a doggie at dinner will drop a present at the doorstep. Maybe even right next to a table of people who are not so dog friendly. What then?
A dog-loving restaurant patron in San Francisco told KGO-TV, “It is up to the dog’s owner to deal with that quickly and effectively.”