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New York should say yes to dining with dogs

Bring your dog to the bar or cafe!

Bring your dog to the bar or cafe! It could be legal soon. Credit: Ambrose Hall

Want to take your beagle to brunch?

This summer seems like a lovely time to take a walk and stop for an al fresco bite, all with your pooch by your side.

Albany should give pet owners that chance, by passing a law that would allow dogs in outside dining areas, from sidewalk cafes to patios.

There are, of course, a few important caveats. Dogs would have to be on a leash or in a carrier, and "under the control" of their owner. They wouldn't be allowed to march through the restaurant's interior to get to an outdoor patio; there would have to be a separate entrance.

Also, it's just dogs -- no cats, pigs or other pets allowed.

Oh, and don't expect a waiter to bring your poodle a water glass or food on the restaurant's best china if there's a Doggie Dishes menu. The law would permit only "single-use disposable containers" for the dog's food and water.

With those guidelines, doggie dining could be fun, with little bark or bite. It'd be convenient for dog owners and might bring a smile to those without mutts of their own.

NYC's Health Department opposes it, citing health risks. But a similar California law went into effect this year without trouble. And New York dogs have long accompanied their owners to outdoor venues without a big stink.

But let's be smart about it. Before they open their doors to pooches of all sizes, shapes, and barks, a restaurant owner should think about whether his or her space, style and customer base will welcome dogs.

If you're an owner, you'd need to take care of your dog. If your beagle yelped, or your spaniel chewed the shoe of a nearby patron, perhaps it would be time to leave. You'd treat your dog the way a smart parent should treat a toddler: Keep her occupied, give her a treat and hope she behaves. If she doesn't, deal with it appropriately.

Perhaps restaurants will offer chew toys to dogs just as they give crayons and paper to children. Perhaps there will be doggie beds next to high chairs. If outdoor doggie dining becomes law, keep courtesy in mind. And enjoy your meal.