Councilwoman wants to legalize pet dogs at restaurants

Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 6:16pm

Some call it “Yappy Hour.” For others, it’s “Lappy Hour.” There’s also “Pets on the Porch.”

Restaurants throughout Nashville offer special periods when pet-owner patrons are welcome to bring their dogs to outdoor dining areas. By law, however, Metro does not allow dogs — besides guide or service dogs — on restaurant property, according to Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper.

Armed with this knowledge, Metro Councilwoman Karen Bennett, an avowed animal lover who represents the Inglewood area in East Nashville, has proposed a bill that would officially allow dogs onto the exterior dining areas of restaurants.

“It was a surprise to me, until about a month ago, that it is against the law to have your pet at the exterior seating at a restaurant,” Bennett said. “I think restaurants have been doing it for quite some time.”

The bill, set to go before the council for the first of three votes on Tuesday, would take advantage of a state law passed last year that authorizes municipalities with populations greater than 100,000 people to allow dogs in outside eating areas.

If approved, owners of Nashville restaurants would decide themselves whether they want to allow dogs into their establishments. In order to do so, restaurants would pay an annual fee of $20 to receive a special permit through the Metro Health Department.

Taking into account various health and sanitation concerns, Bennett’s legislation, as dictated by state law, establishes several rules and guidelines, including:

• Restaurant employees would be required to wash their hands after touching dogs.

• Restaurants would reserve the right to refuse to serve an owner if the owner “fails to exercise reasonable control over the pet dog” or if the dog acts in a manner that compromises the health or safety of others.

• Employees of restaurants would be instructed to not allow dogs to come into contact with dining utensils, plates and other equipment. 

• Patrons would be required to keep their dogs on leashes no longer than six feet.

• Dogs would not be allowed on chairs, tables or other furnishings.

• Accidents involving dog waste must be cleaned up and sanitized immediately. Restaurants would be required to keep cleaning kits near outdoor areas for this purpose. 

• Restaurants allowing pets in outdoor dining areas would be required to post a sign that outlines applicable rules.

Bennett, who volunteers for the Nashville Humane Association, has a history of animal-oriented legislation, having earlier this year successfully spearheaded a new law that restricts the sale of pets outdoors in an attempt to stop unqualified vendors from selling dogs and cats on street corners.

Consider the dogs-in-restaurants bill Bennett’s latest pet-inspired bill.

“Those of us that are pet lovers, when we’re done at the end of our shift or our work time, instead of leaving our pets at home while we go out to dine, we have the opportunity to take our pets with us,” Bennett said. 

11 Comments on this post:

By: courier37027 on 9/16/10 at 10:33

How about a law that cites drivers who allow pets in lap while operating a vehicle? Leave your pet at home or put pet in back seat.

By: TITAN1 on 9/17/10 at 5:19

I love my Lab, but he would be more comfortable at home than in a restaurant. Like courier said, when you are transporting your dog, put him in the back. You put you, your dog, and others in danger when he is in your lap. A lot of people have trouble driving as it is. While on the subject of stupid drivers, the center lane on Harding Place between Danby and Nolensville Rd is a turning lane not a passing lane. Sorry, I got off subject, but it is a dangerous problem I see every day.

By: bfra on 9/17/10 at 7:15

Where did this woman come from? Dogs shed & they pee & poop at will. Maybe she likes dog hair in her food and watching them pee & poop while eating, I don't. Surely there are more important issues she could work toward, instead of a very inane one, such as dogs in restaurants.

By: may not on 9/17/10 at 8:58

Oh, for gosh sakes! Just what we needed - another Council rep determined to get a reputation as loopiest nutjob in the Council (or should I say Kennel?). Ludye Wallace all over again!

Lady, keep your mutt in your kitchen. Keep your wet nose and your legislation outta my face and off the backs of restaurants and other businesses!

By: localboy on 9/17/10 at 11:33

Oh goody more wasted effort while real bills should be debated. If you've finished your work for the day, go home...

By: PKVol on 9/17/10 at 3:56

I know Karen Bennett and her husband, and am too an animal lover, but this bill will cause more problems than the guns in bars law.

By: Obediah on 9/18/10 at 7:07

My dogs roam in my kitchen and it causes me no problems at all.

By: Obediah on 9/18/10 at 7:09

That law is Guns in restaurants NOT "bars" and besides no body who can carry a licensed gun in a restaurant can drink any way. If I see a sign that says no guns allowed I will notify the Mgr why we are NOT eating there!

Guns save lives of the innocent- this has been proven time & time again!

By: tomba1 on 9/18/10 at 11:06

Good Job Bennett!! Now I can strap my holster and gun onto my dog and let him carry the gun. Then, since I'm unarmed, "I'll have a double gin and tonic with extra lime please and a bowl of water for the pooch".

We need to cut the council size in half and get some real leaders in there. Bills like this one and another letting hybrid cars park free downtown are absurd wastes of time. I can't say "valuable" time because it can't be worth much if this is all they can come up with to do for the City.

By: ladylounel on 9/21/10 at 7:36

I am an animal lover also. I have dogs and cats that have free reign of the house, including the kitchen. They are not allowed around the table at meal time. They also are house broken and do not come around the table at meal time to do their "business".
I see no point in dragging a poor animal out among strangers and other animals that can cause a lot of stress and potential conflict. They are animals and will act like animals, no matter what size they are. They will try to establish territory either by fighting, or marking it. God forbid if someone should bring along a female in estrous.
Pets do not want to go out for a meal. They want love and attention at home without stress in their own territory. They do, however, enjoy the occasional ride in back seat with the window down just enough to get the wind in their face and a good run through a creek.

By: TITAN1 on 9/21/10 at 9:31

It is very obvious from several posts that obediah just does not like rules and laws and authority.