New York’s pooches may now venture onto restaurant patios under a new state law allowing restaurants to open outdoor dining areas to canines.
The measure was signed into law late Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. States including California, Florida and Maryland already have similar laws.
Dog lovers and many restaurant owners in New York support the idea, noting that the animals would have to be leashed and that restaurants could choose not to allow canines in outdoor eating areas. While health officials expressed worries, Cuomo said the legislation’s “firm health and sanitary guidelines” strike the right balance.
“This action will give restaurants an additional option to boost revenue and grow their businesses by appealing to this new audience of dog-owning New Yorkers and their four-legged friends,” Cuomo said.
Dog owners are delighted.
“I think this speaks volumes to where we are as a society and how most people with dogs view them as members of the family,” said Kim Wolf, a New York City dog owner who works for an organization that helps people in poor neighborhoods care for their animals.
Restaurateur Michael O’Neal hopes the legislation will settle any uncertainty about bringing dogs to his Boat Basin Cafe, in Manhattan’s Riverside Park. Dog owners often stroll through, and sometimes stop in, with their pets.
“In a park or in a sidewalk cafe, people should be allowed to have their dogs,” O’Neal said Tuesday.
But health officials disagree.
The state Association of County Health Officials opposed the legislation this spring, saying it was “deeply concerned” about biting, sanitation and bringing “additional public health risks into food service establishments where none need exist.” The organization didn’t immediately return a call Tuesday about its approach now that the measure is law.
As a Manhattan dog owner, Evelien Kong is enthusiastic about doggie dining, but she understands those who aren’t.
“Maybe there’s a happy medium,” such as having dog-friendly and dog-free sections of restaurant patios, Kong said Monday night while walking her 8-year-old shih tzu, Gracie. Dog owners must ensure their pets aren’t pests, and “there has to be a healthy, mutual respect for both sides,” Kong said.
Legislation intended to help New York’s felines didn’t fare so well. Cuomo vetoed a proposal to fund groups that trap and neuter feral cats and then release them back into the wild.
“Although the goal of this bill is laudable, it is problematic for several reasons,” the Democratic governor said. He noted that another law prohibits releasing wild cats and that feral felines threaten local wildlife such as birds.
A Siena College poll released last week suggests dog owners may have more political clout anyway. The survey found that 57 percent of New Yorkers consider themselves “dog people,” while 17 percent call themselves “cat people.”
Overall, 42 percent reported having a pet. Thirty percent have a dog, 20 percent live with a cat, and nearly 10 percent own at least one of each.
Cuomo has neither, but his girlfriend, chef Sandra Lee, has two cockatoos.