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Bone Apetit! Florida Lawmakers Looking at Designated Dog Areas for Outdoor Dining

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Crystal Gordon brings her four-legged friend Huxley to work with her at a doggie boutique, and she enjoys taking him to a local café sometimes, too.

Crystal Gordon, a dog owner, says, "It’s fun to interact with other people because then you can start conversations with other people about their dogs, you know; it’s a good way to meet people."

The problem is it’s illegal in Florida to bring dogs to restaurants, even though you see pooches at sidewalk cafes all over the state.

Rep. Sheri McInvale is sponsoring a bill to allow restaurants to seek variances allowing doggie dining if local governments give the okay.

Rep. Sheri McInvale, (R) Orlando, says, "Why shouldn’t restaurants be able to make their own decisions based on what their patrons want, and if their patrons want the activity? It should be up to the restaurant."

Not surprisingly, there might be issues with mixing dogs and dining, and state regulators are a little nervous about the idea.

John McBride of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation says, "Do you have a way, if the dog has an accident in the outdoor setting, do you have a way that you can hose it? It drains away? There’s a ton of implications."

Concerns range from serious:

Rep. Susan Goldstein, (R) Sunrise, says, "There are two dogs that obviously don’t like each other and attack each other.”

To the somewhat silly:

Rep. Tim Ryan, (D) Dania Beach, says, "You don’t have any objections to dogs being fed from the restaurant tables."

But the Fido-friendly bill finally did clear its first committee with McInvale’s pledge to work out the details. Huxley and his four-legged friends could soon be celebrating at a café near you.

The doggie dining bill passes its first House committee nearly unanimously. It has two more to clear before it could go before the full House when the legislative session starts in March.


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