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Wednesday, May 8,2013

Your dog here

Legislation would allow dogs to dine outdoors with owners

by Sam Inglot
Some dog owners like taking their four-legged friends with them everywhere they go, but that’s illegal in some spots — such as restaurant patios. However, legislation to change that was introduced in the state House earlier this year. 

A recent bill sponsored by Rep. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, would allow cities and restaurants to decide whether your dog can join you next time you go out to dinner. The bill would allow cities to pass an ordinance allowing dogs in restaurants, and individual businesses could then decide whether they wished to allow canines in their outdoor dining areas. 

The bill was introduced in late February and has been in the House Committee on Tourism ever since. There has been some testimony regarding the bill, but it’s in committee until some kinks are worked out with liability and health code issues, said Matt Blakely, policy director for the committee’s chairman, Rep. Peter Pettalia, R- Presque Isle. 

The goal, O’Brien told MLive, is to make Michigan a more attractive state for dog-loving tourists. 

“Michigan is a destination tourism state,” said O'Brien, who’s sponsoring HB4335. “We just want to make sure we have one more tool in the belt.”

“I think it would be good,” said Nick Marcy, manager at the Waterfront Bar and Grill in downtown Lansing, which has a patio that can seat about 120 people. “I think it would be good for business. If someone is walking by with their dog, it might encourage them to stop by.” 

Marcy said Waterfront allows dog owners to tie their dogs up outside, near the edge of their patio, but they have to keep them out of the area to comply with the law. The bar even stocks dog water dishes, which get a lot of use. 

Allowing dogs on patios might work for restaurants with spacious patios, but for smaller ones like East Lansing’s Peanut Barrel, dogs just get in the way. 

“We don’t allow dogs unless they are assisting someone,” said Meghan Comer, manager at Peanut Barrel. “It’s so small it can sometimes get crowded, and a dog could pose a danger to the servers.”

As a dog owner, Marcy said he’d be down for bringing his dog to dine with him. 

“I would love that,” he said.

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