Grove City Rep. Lanese thinks decision should rest with proprietors

Those summer days of friendly dogs next to their owners on restaurant patios are gone after the Ohio Department of Health recently started to crack down, enforcing an existing law that prohibits animals at food and drink establishments. But a new proposed piece of legislation might take a bite out of that enforcement.

According to the Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code Sections 3717-1-6.4 (O): “Live animals may not be allowed on the premises of a food service operation or retail food establishment” with the exception of decorative fish in aquariums, patrol or service dogs and fish bait, to name a few.

Recently, Ohio House Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) introduced House Bill 263 on June 8. A portion of that bill reads as follows:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of the Revised Code to the contrary, the director of agriculture, the director of health, or a board of health shall not adopt any rule or issue or enforce any order prohibiting an owner, keeper, or harborer of a dog from taking the dog in an outdoor dining area of a retail food establishment or food service operation. A retail food establishment or food service operation may refuse to allow a dog in an outdoor eating area of the establishment or operation unless the dog is a service dog.”

In other words, the bill puts the decision of allowing a dog on the outdoor eating area of a restaurant onto the restaurant owner, and not on any outside body (like the Ohio Department of Health). That bill was referred to the House committee on economic development, commerce and labor in June 20.

In the past, several petitions on Change.org, aimed to showcase public concern over the safety code, have popped up. One, entitled “Give Business Owners the Choice: Stop the Ban of Pups on Patios,” has already gained more than 6,000 signatures and is set to be delivered to the Ohio Department of Health once it has reached 7,500 signatures.

BrewDog, a dog-friendly brewery located all over the U.K., Europe and, now, with its first U.S. facility in Canal Winchester, recently tweeted a link to the petition from its @BrewDogUSA account in the hopes that this would help gain more traction for the petition. “We’re hoping it will,” says Ben Stewart, head of sales and marketing for BrewDog. “I’ve noticed from Ohio that there are a lot of dog owners.”

When asked about sanitary issues, Stewart states that dogs are normally controlled and that that it hasn’t been an issue at the Canal Winchester site’s large outdoor patio. “When you’re talking about dogs on patios, I’ve never experienced an issue,” Stewart says. “I understand if dogs were standing on tables, but the owners have always had their dogs under control.”

This sentiment is not shared by all restaurant owners in Columbus.

“We need to talk in terms of rules and safety,” Stan Wielezynski, owner of French bakery La Chatelaine. “If we cannot have dogs inside of a restaurant where food is being prepared, then that is it. This isn’t a matter of good or bad business, we need to care about our customers.”

When contacted for comment about the safety code, Melanie Amato, an Ohio Department of Health spokesperson, stated, “The law speaks for itself and we have nothing else to add.”