New law would allow dogs on restaurant patios in Ohio

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A state representative is working to give restaurant owners the option to allow dogs on patio areas.

It's illegal in the state of Ohio to have any live animal on the premises of a food service operation or a retail food establishment.

State lawmakers could decide this fall if it should stay that way.

A 4-year-old springer spaniel called Prudence likes walks, her Instagram page, and patios.

"I think it's important to allow dogs, especially when people work all day and they don't have much opportunities to get out with their dogs. As long as they're responsible dog owners I don't see the harm," dog owner Sara Mitchell said.

Prudence had a nice seat under the table at dinner on a patio in Columbus, but according to state law, dogs aren't allowed to be there.

Columbus Public Health officials say they've seen an increase in complaints about dogs on patios. So far this year almost 10 businesses have been cited. Franklin County Public Health officials say they've received nine complaints about the same thing so far this year, but have not given out any citations.

Ohio restaurant owners could soon get the option to welcome canine customers. New legislation introduced last week by Representative Laura Lanese would allow dogs on patios.

"We would work with the department of Health to create regulations to address the sanitary issues, the control of the dog issues, etc," Representative Lanese said.

Lanese says House Bill 263 only applies to outdoor eating areas, meaning dogs still would not be able to go into restaurants unless they are a service animal.

Even then, some prefer not to dine with dogs.

"Dogs are welcome in all kinds of public places. From our streets to our parks and plenty of retail establishments. I don't think it's too much to ask to prefer to not dine with a stranger's pet," Jacob Manser said.

It will be up to state lawmakers to decided and that could come this fall. Until then, Prudence the dog may have to find somewhere else to eat dinner, but her owner hopes the law will go through.

"It's a doggone good idea," Mitchell said.

Ohio lawmakers say there will be several meetings with the Ohio Department of Health, restaurant owners, and animal advocate groups before the bill goes to a House committee.