Bill Would Allow Dogs to Accompany Owners to Restaurants with Outdoor Patios

A new bill under review by a state senate committee would allow dogs to accompany their owners to restaurants with outdoor seating.

Right now, the law only allows service dogs to accompany owners, but generally prohibits others.

Republican State Senator Wayne Schmidt from Traverse City is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Co-sponsors say if this bill passes, it could even increase tourism in Michigan.  

“It used to be that when we went on vacation, we would put the dog in the kennel and go on vacation. That’s not really the case anymore,” District Health Department #10 Environmental Health Director Tom Reichard.

Times are changing — where people go, dogs follow.

Because of a new bill, soon — you may not just be taking man’s best friend on a walk or to the park… But to restaurants with outdoor seating.

“We had one of the original outdoor cafes. As of 2014, we have had an outdoor café. We’ve always allowed people to bring their dogs,” said Cousin Jenny’s Owner Jerilyn DeBoer.

Jerilyn DeBoer is part of a growing trend of restaurant owners that allow dogs access.

A decision that requires careful oversight from the health department.

“The wait staff, they can’t touch the dog at all. Because then they’ll have to wash their hands, they have to make sure dogs aren’t on top of the tables,” Reichard said. “Sooner or later, some wait staff is going to have to clean up after a dog.”

Despite what could be extra work, Tom Reichard and the health department say adding dogs to the mix shouldn’t be too much trouble.

“Outdoor patios are not pristine environments. They’re out in the open. And you have road dust and leaf litter and flies and hornets and bees and birds and squirrels.”

The decision would ultimately be up to restaurant operators whether or not to allow dogs on their patios.

For some, a decision that’s already been made.

“We have plenty of space out there which doesn’t seem to infringe on the other guy who brings his dog. Never really had, maybe one incident and that’s it,” DeBoer said.

Local governments would be able to adopt ordinances that make the bill more restrictive.