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Dining with dogs in California

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For those of us lucky enough to live near resort areas such as Big Bear Lake, Palm Springs and the beaches of Ventura, it is common to see tourists, and their dogs, dining in the patio areas of restaurants. But not all cities are so welcoming.

If Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) has her way, dogs will be allowed to accompany their owners to outdoor cafes unless specifically prohibited by local ordinance. She introduce Assembly Bill 1965 to clarify and update existing law.

“This bill allows willing businesses to serve customers and accommodate their dogs,” Yamada said. “Allowing restaurants the flexibility to serve patrons with their canine companions without fear from health authorities saves precious resources for more serious public health concerns.”

AB 1965, which is sponsored by Social Compassion in Legislation, will in no way mandate that an eatery allow dogs. If enacted, the bill will leave it up to the restaurant owners to decide what is best for their establishment. Local governments will be free to ban dogs from dining establishments if they so choose.

The only addition to the current law would be Section 114259.6 is added to the Health and Safety Code. It reads:

114259.6.

(a) A food facility may permit a person to bring a pet dog on to the food facility’s outdoor dining areas.

(b) A city, county, or city and county may by ordinance prohibit a food facility from allowing a person to bring a pet dog to the food facility’s outdoor dining area.

Other animals such as cats, rats, snakes and iguanas would remain prohibited.

"Social Compassion in Legislation is thrilled to sponsor this business and pet friendly legislation,” said Judie Mancuso, President of the statewide animal welfare group. “We have received complaints about this outdated state law for years from dog lovers and restaurant owners alike, and greatly appreciate Assemblywoman Yamada addressing the issue. Many restaurants choose to take their chances and allow dogs on their patios, but it remains illegal. We want to support these businesses and encourage more to open up to our canine family members."

The law addresses concerns restaurant owners have expressed over the capricious nature in which many public health employees conduct inspections and cite on whim. In 2012, the Los Angeles County Department of Publi Health changed its policy to allow dogs under certain conditions. However, state law still prohibits the presence of all animals other than service animals wherever food is served.

The bill will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee on March 25, 2014. Only if you are a group, organization, association, restaurant, city or county, please send or fax your support letter on your group letterhead to:

Chair Richard Pan
Assembly Health Committee
State Capitol, Room 6005
Sacramento, California 95814
916.319.2097 phone
916.319.2197 fax

If you would like to offer your personal support, please direct it to your assembly person. You can look up your representative here.

Yamada represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all or parts of Colusa, Lake, Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo Counties.

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