Restaurant owners and not public health officials would decide whether to allow dogs on outdoor patios and porches under a bill sponsored by state Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester.
Coley, who likes to take his sheepdogs Wilby and Elwood with him on vacations, out to dinner and around town, said of the restaurant owners: “They know what will work for their businesses and their customers and what won’t. Some businesses will choose to welcome pets in and some will say, ‘You know what, no, we prefer you leave your pet at home.’…That should be up to the business, not up to somebody in the Ohio Department of Health or some bureaucrat in a city or municipality around the state. Let’s leave it to the owners.”
A similar bill is pending in the Ohio House that would block local public health officials from implementing or enforcing bans.
Generally, public health laws prohibit pets on the premises of food service operations or retail food establishments. The ban is to protect against potential food contamination and disease transfer. Coley said restaurants would still have to meet sanitation requirements and would maintain the right to refuse service pets that appear “flea ridden” or unhealthy.
But in recent years some states, including New York and California, have loosened or eliminated the ban.
Julie Keys of Columbus-based Land Grant Brewing said dogs had been welcome on the bar patio until last summer when public health officials notified restaurants of the current restrictions. If Coley’s bill becomes law, the craft brewery would be able to return to its pet-friendly policy, she said.
Coley said he isn’t ready to expand the policy to indoor areas of restaurants. “Let’s walk before we run,” he said.