LANSING — Canines may be allowed as dinner guests in outdoor restaurant dining areas if a new bill passes.
Sens. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, say they are sponsoring the bill to help increase tourism. Current law allows service animals in food establishments but generally prohibits other animals. The new law would allow pet dogs in outdoor dining areas and give local governments the ability to adopt an ordinance that is more restrictive than the bill.
“Before the bill was introduced, a number of restaurants in northern Michigan asked for the option of allowing dogs in their outdoor dining areas,” Schmidt said. “The bill is permissive. Restaurants can determine what types of dogs they’ll allow or if they want to have this option at all.”
The Michigan Association for Local Public Health objects to the bill, saying it would require local health departments to provide additional training and education for inspections and create a new license and license renewal process. Training materials would need to be developed relating to employee hygienic practices, fecal clean up, cleanable surfaces and storage of chemicals.
“We’re opposed because it creates additional training for restaurant staff, it creates a scenario of wait staff exposed to canine waste, and finally, the risk associated with dog bites,” said Meghan Swain, executive director of the association.
The Michigan dog bite law holds the owner of a dog strictly liable for unprovoked dog bites to a human. The proposed bill would to indemnify restaurants, Swain said.
Schmidt said this bill is not a free-for-all and there are rules restaurants must comply with. Restaurants that choose to allow dogs must inform the health department and have a separate entrance for customers with dogs.
The bill is pending in the Senate Agriculture Committee.
— JASMINE WATTS