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Dogs get Albany’s nod for entry to restaurants

ALBANY – Sorry, cats, but dogs are emerging as the big winner in Albany.

The Assembly has given final passage to a bill that permits restaurant patrons to bring their dogs to outdoor dining areas.

“It’s common sense to make this law of the state,” said Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, sponsor of the bill. “Amidst the rough-and-tumble of Albany’s maneuvering on important bills, it’s fun to do a feel-good bill.”

The Senate previously passed the measure, which allows a restaurant owner to decide whether to let customers bring their dogs to outdoor dining areas.

The bill also includes certain conditions, including a requirement that a restaurant have a separate entrance so the dogs are not brought through the food establishment to reach the outdoor area and provisions intended to keep dog germs from spreading onto plates or glasses.

There is also a strict “down” clause: Dogs are not permitted on chairs, benches or other types of seating for people.

Food workers are not supposed to pet the dogs, and dogs must be on a leash or in a pet carrier.

The bill, which still needs Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature to become law, states that “companion dogs” are covered by the new canine dining provisions. It defines a companion dog as one that accompanies a person “for the purpose of companionship or convenience.”

Rosenthal, in an interview, said the bill is modeled on a law in California. She said that there was opposition from local health departments, which she said “really turned a blind eye to reality.” The assemblywoman noted that dogs are already seen in outdoor dining areas across the state, even though it is illegal to bring a pet into the restaurant areas.

“People love their animals. They consider them part of the family, and people like to have dogs with them when out and about,” she said. “If they want to stop to get a bite to eat and drink at a patio, they either now have to illegally bring them or bring the dog home.”

Rosenthal emphasized that the restaurant owner has the final say on whether to permit a dog onto an outdoor dining area.

As for cats? Rosenthal said she owns two. “I know that cats prefer not to sit on sidewalks,” she said. “… I’ve not heard any meows of protest from the cat lobby.”

Next year, she said, she plans to push for a ban on declawing of cats.

“Cats will have their turn,” Rosenthal said.