BY BTL STAFF
New legislation, Senate Bill 727, would offer Michigan restaurants the option to permit dogs in their outdoor dining areas.
Sens. Margaret O'Brien (R-Portage), Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton), and Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) said they are sponsoring the bill, which passed Sept. 7, to help increase tourism.
O'Brien told MLive.com that she had heard from constituents who traveled with dogs. They loved amenities like dog parks and hotels that allow dogs, but couldn't take their dogs to a restaurant patio.
"And it was getting frustrating because they didn't want to eat at McDonald's, they didn't' want to do takeout and eat in the hotel, they wanted to be able to go outside, enjoy the beauty and have their pet there," O'Brien said, adding that "Michiganders love their pets. Dogs have become important members of the family. With so many pet-friendly amenities like dog parks and hotels that accept dogs, it is reasonable to allow restaurants to decide if dogs are allowed on their outdoor patios."
Proponents agree if the dogs are not in the kitchen, they can't contaminate food that is being prepared, and in a dining room they might be no more of a risk than humans.
But the Michigan Association for Local Public Health objects to the bill telling City Pulse in Lansing that it would require local health departments to provide additional training and education for inspections and create a new license and license renewal process. Training materials would need to be developed relating to employee hygienic practices, fecal clean up, cleanable surfaces and storage of chemicals.
While service dogs are already allowed in restaurants, Senate Bill 727 would expand the law to include permission for non-service pets to accompany diners to designated outdoor patios.
The conditions of the legislation would require restaurants interested in the option to use individual discretion regarding the size and type of dogs permitted, as well as the right to refuse or remove a patron and their dog at the establishment's discretion. Staff coming into contact with animals would be required to wash themselves before returning to work.
Dogs would have to be leashed and couldn't pass through the restaurant interior or sit in chairs or on customers' laps. Patios would have to be free of dog hair. Surfaces contaminated by dog waste would have to be disinfected immediately.
The legislation wouldn't require restaurant owners to allow dogs, and local communities could pass ordinances prohibiting dogs on restaurant patios.
"We've got all the rules in place so a community can ban it if they don't want it, a restaurant does not have to do it, but if a restaurant chooses to do it we already have a list of rules that they will have to follow to protect everyone's health and safety," O'Brien said.
Schmidt said this bill is not a free-for-all and there are rules restaurants must comply with. Restaurants that choose to allow dogs must inform the health department and have a separate entrance for customers with dogs.
The bill passed 32-4 in the Senate and has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform in the House of Representatives.
Take Your Dog to Dinner
Here is a list of the Top 10 Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Michigan, according to BringFido.com, a dog travel directory for pet owners looking for somewhere to stay, play or eat with their dog.
The Dish Cafe
108 S. Union St.
Traverse City, MI 49684
315 Braun Ct.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
One Trick Pony
136 Fulton St. E
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
804 W. Vine St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
326 S. Main St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
608 S. Washington Ave.
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Water Street Coffee Joint
315 East Water St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
The Filling Station Microbrewery
642 Railroad Pl
Traverse City, MI 49686
310 E. Maple Rd.
Birmingham, MI 48009
Traffic Jam and Snug
511 W. Canfield St.
Detroit, MI 48201