Patrons could bring their dogs along while eating in outdoor areas of restaurants under a bill advancing in the Michigan Legislature.
State law generally prohibits live animals at restaurants. The legislation was approved 32-6 by the Senate on Wednesday and sent to the House for consideration.
The bill would allow dogs on restaurant patios under certain circumstances.
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.
"On a beautiful, summer night it's actually where people generally want to go," said Caleb DeHart, general manager at Table and Tap.
Restaurant patios like Table and Tap are the first to fill up on beautiful days. For some people it's a moment they want to share with their four-legged friends.
"Especially people who live in the area. They'll bring their dogs down and we're always happy to accommodate them," DeHart said.
He said the restaurant has never had a problem with a pooch misbehaving on the patio.
Under the bill the dog owners would be responsible for any damage or injury caused to the establishment.
Restaurants would still have the freedom to maintain dog-free patios if they prefer.
"I think if you're walking your dog and you're downtown here that's fine. I just have an issue as far as what if we had two or three different people with their dogs and the dogs get aggressive with each other. We don't know, you know. Maybe they're not like that with you at home, but you don't know what they're going to be like here," said Patti Bergstrom, manager of Blackstone's Pub and Grill.
Bergstrom said she happily brings water outside for the dogs, but kindly requests for them to remain on the other side of the fence.
If the patio bill becomes law she said she will have to have a discussion with the restaurant's owner about how to proceed.
"We haven't really had to deal with that yet and I'm not really sure how we would go about it," Bergstrom said.
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