By Tom Cushing
? ? and my friend here will have the kibble."Uploaded: Aug 22, 2014
Sutter Brown strikes again. Hounded by pet lovers' dogged determination, the legislature has rolled-over on AB 1965, which allows pet dogs to sit, and stay with their people in the outdoor areas of restaurants, under specified conditions. They thus join service animals, as well as certain crustaceans and a few other 'live' exotics that may currently occupy eating areas under the Health and Safety Code ? the difference being that Fido might share, but not be, dinner.
Previously, the state Health and Safety Code (Sec. 114259.5, if you're keeping score) prohibited the practice, and apparently pre-empted any local ordinances on the subject. That code section makes it clear that contamination concerns underlie it, despite the experience of other, more civilized cultures where canines get more respect (les French, particularement). Of course, there is also a dawning realization among medicos that most bugs are actually good for us, but that's for another column.
One might have expected the retail community to have set up a howl, but you'd be barki ? (never mind ? just can't do it). According to sponsor Mariko Yamada (D, Davis), her bill had "the unwavering support of the CA Restaurant Association (CRA)." BTW, she dubbed it 'noodles with poodles," so RC readers can appreciate that they don't really have it so ruff. My guess is that the CRA would prefer to allow each proprietor to set its own rules ? there may be relative marketing advantages for both bans and grants.
Important limitations are built-into the new law. First, it also amends H&S Code section 113709 to explicitly allow local governments jurisdiction to make their own rules on the subject. I predict our various county and local council folk will demur. Pet people can be a vicious pack when provoked ? do you recall the impressive mass demonstration on the Capitol steps when the Governator threatened to repeal the Hayden Bill? Council meetings would look like the dog park, only a lot less friendly. The people (as usual) would be doing most of the snapping and growling. Add to that the fact that Danville has banned disposable bags ?
Second, canines are restricted to outdoor areas, not near where food is actually prepared. They must enter and leave in a way that does not take them through restricted areas, and any food or water on their menu must be provided in single use containers. That last provision is quizzical ? my dogs ALways clean their plates. They do it better than cold water -- practically well enough for dishware to be returned directly to the cupboard.
Finally, Bowser must be leashed, under control and not given his own seat at (or on) the table. Actually, that last 'on' provision is not expressed in the statute ? if this were ObamaCare, somebody'd being suing over the omission. Of course, "Fifi's a good girl" ? meaning that this is where practical problems will occur. 'Control' is a remarkably flexible concept among pet people. Here's hoping that folks will err on the side of circumspection, and courtesy to fellow diners.
This new law may be a minor reform and lifestyle improvement to the likes of me; others will consider it further proof that society is going to the dogs. There are legitimate concerns about dust-ups between adjacent canines, and perhaps allergies of other diners. I can only respond that both Europe's and any dog park's experience will suggest that the former concern is over-stated. Those places are nobody's turf, and they must smell like soup to dogs' much more sensitive scent sense ? a fascinating distraction to a dog. I have seen much more conflict, posturing displays and other embarrassing behaviors from humans at Hap Magee K9 Corral. There will undoubtedly be a few well-publicized skirmishes in the wake of this new law, but far fewer than there will be bar fights on any Saturday night.
As to allergies, restriction of these diner dogs to the great outdoors may help to disperse the problem. I would also note that there are allergies to many other things that are allowed ? including perfumes, various legumes and golfing attire, in general. Why would this situation necessarily be different?
Here's hoping that various establishments will move swiftly to remove their former species-ist restriction on the legitimate canine range. I'm thinking of one place in particular ? where you could even leash your pup to a brass rail ? if they had one. What do you say, Pete (whoever you are)? Maybe other restaurants could chime-in on their plans, in the Comments -- advertising is never better than 'free.'