Friday, February 24, 2006

Fla. Bill Would Give Dogs a Place at Table

By DAVID ROYSE (Associated Press Writer)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Some Florida cities would like to throw a dog a bone - or maybe a burger and some fries. Dogs would be able to sit with humans at outdoor restaurant tables in some communities under a measure advancing in the Florida Legislature.

The bill, approved by a House committee Wednesday, would create a three-year test program to allow cities to grant restaurants that want to host dogs special permission to do so under certain conditions.

Rep. Sheri McInvale, an Orlando Republican, filed the bill after some restaurant owners complained because they were threatened with fines for allowing doggy dining. The city supports the proposal.

"We are getting a renaissance downtown," said Kathy Russell, Orlando's director of government relations. "We've got designer restaurants and designer dogs, and (people) would like to have a designer cup of coffee with their designer dog."

Dogs would only be allowed to dine at outside tables under the plan. No restaurant would be required to let the dogs in, and cities would not be required to offer the variance from the law that normally bars canines. The dogs also would have to be on leashes.

But some say giving Fido a seat at the table raises serious questions. The issue of dog bites may be a concern for individual restaurant owners, McInvale said. The bill would require restaurants to have $1 million worth of liability insurance to be eligible to be exempted from the law.

"Everybody's not a dog person, and some people are afraid of dogs," said Rep. Terry Fields, a Democrat.

Tiffany Hickem, who shuttles her 9-month-old shelty Delaney between her home in Delray Beach and Gainesville where Hickem is a student at the University of Florida, would love to take the puppy to restaurants.

It would mean fewer hours Delaney would have to hang out at home all alone.

"Anytime I can take her out and do something with her, even if it's while I'm doing something, it gives her a chance get a little more socialized," Hickem said.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is against the bill because different restaurants will have to follow different laws depending on what city they're in. The restaurant lobby probably won't howl too loudly about the proposal, though.

"Our membership is somewhat split on this," said the FRLA's general counsel, Richard Turner, who, for the record, has a puppy at home.

The bill has one more committee stop to make before it can go to the full House for a vote. A similar measure is awaiting Senate committee hearings. Some lawmakers still have questions - albeit humorous ones.

"Does it mean if we pass this bill, it would eliminate doggy bags?" asked Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami.


  1. I've been to bars in Wisconsin where dogs have chilled in the bar stool next to me happily lapping up a bowl of water and noshing on a beef jerky. Granted, the bars were always shacks in the middle of nowhere, it certainly was a silly sight to take in!

  2. I know people love their dogs, but I think having them sitting at the tables with other diners would be a little odd.

  3. I love my dog-but I do not want to dine with him. He already is a major mooch pooch...and this would just feed the fire. Does this mean that resturants would expand the menu to include dog dishes? What about the cat lover? What are they to do? I could just see this being a big can of worms in way of lawsuits just waiting to be opened in many different ways.
    There is a point where people really have to remember their dog is a dog....not a little person in a fur suit.

  4. Overheard recently in a Florida restaurant, "Is that your dog under the table or are you glad to see me"?

    More thoughts on the subject.

  5. Those are pretty funny, Keys Treasures. :-)