"The current law does not allow animals," explains North Carolina Division of Environmental Health public information officer Laura Leonard, who yesterday participated in a public hearing on a rule revision that would permit pets on patios.
According to Leonard, the lone citizen who spoke at the hearing felt the new rule – which prohibits animals from entering the indoor dining area, eating table scraps, licking utensils and nuzzling with employees – was overly strict. But many North Carolinians aren't so inclined to share their restaurants with feathered and furry diners: The News & Observer reports hundreds of people have complained to the state that dogs would bring germs, fleas and noise to their favorite eateries.
The new rule would leave it up to restaurant owners to decide which animals – if any -- to welcome in their al fresco sections. Florida in 2006 adopted a similar ordinance: The Dixie Cup Clary Local Control Act, named for State Senator Charlie Clary's Yorkshire terrier, allows local governments to enact doggie dining statutes. Dogs are now free to accompany their two-legged friends to restaurants in dozens of Floridian cities, including Jacksonville, Miami Beach and Orlando. "Have a brewski together," then-Gov. Jeb Bush advised excited dogs and their owners.
When Tennessee last year passed a bill allowing dogs to dine out in certain counties, a few legislators found the topic hilarious. The Knoxville News reported Rep. Stacey Campfield wondered whether young dogs could patronize restaurants with smoking sections, venues reserved under state law for Tennesseans aged 21 and over. "Would that be in dog years or human years?," he wondered aloud.
Rep. Joe Towns was in a slightly more serious mood, worrying about the problems dogs could pose for diners with allergies and shuddering at the prospect of a dog defecating during his meal.
"I don't want a dog doing his business while I'm eating my food," he said.
North Carolina will continue to accept public comments through Apr. 5.