Ohio legislator trying to open patio spaces for pets

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — More and more restaurants have been accommodating guests with dogs by allowing them to sit on the patio and enjoy drinks, or even a meal.

But a crackdown by health departments across the state is curbing that practice as it is currently illegal to have non-service dogs in those areas.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, the organization is bound by the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration Moral Food Code, which states:

“Animals carry disease-causing organisms and can transmit pathogens to humans through direct and/or indirect contamination of food and food-contact surfaces. Animals shed hair continuously and may deposit liquid or fecal waste, creating the need for vigilance and more frequent and rigorous cleaning efforts.”

The idea behind the code is straight forward but State Representative Laura Lanese, a Republican representing House District 23, says it is silly.

“We’re trying to be as pro-business as we can here at the statehouse, and try to reel back some of those regulations and to allow businesses to flourish, allow them to make decisions without the huge yoke of state government telling them what they can and cannot do,” said Lanese.

Proponents of the bill point out several of the flaws with the current standards, such as how it applies to non-service animals differently than service animals which share the same hygiene issues.

They also say, eating and drinking outdoors is inherently risky with or without dogs present for the same reasons. Possible airborne contaminants brought into contact with food and drink can come from anywhere.

Lanese also points out that our communities are shifting to a more walkable model, where people are spending more time outside with their pets and she wants to make sure businesses have the choice to cater to these potential customers if they want to.

A choice is also on the table for opponents of the measure, says Lanese.

“I kind of liken it to some restaurants play louder music than I would like, or some restaurants make their temperature a lot colder than I would like,” said Lanese. “And I can choose to eat there or not.”

The bill shifts the power of decision making from the State to the businesses and the citizens.

Still, Lanese says she is surprised by the stiff opposition to her bill. She thought it would be easier to get this legislation passed than it is turning out to be.

The bill, which is still in a House Committee, only impacts restaurant patios, non-service dogs would still be barred from the establishment’s interior.

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