My family and I had the chance to visit Charleston, South Carolina recently and it was a beautiful and interesting city. We spent some time at the beach, did some tours of the historic waterfront and dock areas, and walked up the famous King Street. But when you ask my family what one of their favorite parts of the trip was, it won’t be historic landmarks or cobblestone streets. It was the dogs that ate with us on the patios of the restaurants around the city.
As we sat down on an outdoor patio for our first meal in Charleston, we were surprised to see a large black poodle sitting calmly next to its owners. My daughters (and honestly my wife, too) were given strict instructions to not feed the friendly dog. Otherwise, I don’t think they would have eaten anything that evening. Other dogs came and went throughout the meal, and the locals didn’t seem to think anything of this.
For Ohioans though, this was uncharted territory. And that is about to change.
Ohio’s dogs on patio debate all started in Franklin County, where the Franklin County Health Department received 14 complaints in 2017 about dogs on patios at local restaurants. This led to letters from the health department to licensed food facilities explaining that the Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code does not allow animals to be brought into licensed facilities or onto the connected premises. Puppies on the Plaza, Pup Pub Crawls, and Doggy Dine Ins across the county were cancelled as a result. A petition was started to change the law, and legislators from the Columbus area sponsored a bill to allow dogs on the patios of your local restaurants. After much discussion and debate over the last year, on July 30, Governor Kasich signed the bill into law. This new legislation goes into effect in October of this year.
Now that a law is in place allowing pooches on patios, the Ohio Department of Health is being tasked with creating some rules for how to allow this to happen safely. Local health commissioners and environmental health professionals have provided some suggested rules to the Ohio Department of Health. They include: dogs should remain on leashes, should be properly vaccinated, should not eat off of human dinnerware, and should have direct entry onto patios without going through the restaurants.
For many of us, the main concern of this new law is the potential for increased dog bites, especially as little fingers slip fries under the table to the dogs.
Here in Highland County, we might soon see some of our local businesses opting to allow Canine Carryout, Food for Fido, Doggy Dinners, Pooches on the Porch, Dine Out for Dogs, or Bark and Bites. I could keep going. The opportunities for word play are endless.
For my next family vacation, I can save some money and head to the nearest pet friendly porch, right here in Ohio. Be on the lookout for Pet Potlucks this October.
For answers to questions about this new law and how it might affect the patio of your favorite restaurants, contact the health department at 937-393-1941.
Jared Warner is the health commissioner for the Highland County Health Department.