Dogs on patios

Lily the Chihuahua sits under a table with a styrofoam cup of water at Shrimp ‘N Stuff Downtown in Galveston on Friday, June 8, 2019. The state approved a bill to allow food establishments to choose to allow patrons to be accompanied by their dogs.

Galveston County outdoor eateries might be seeing more diners with dogs in tow now that Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill into law changing Texas’ previous stance on doggies in dining areas.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Kelly Hancock of the Fort Worth area, Senate Bill 476 sailed through the legislative session and Abbott signed it into law on June 4, making Texas one of 10 states that have enacted such laws.

The new law allows restaurant patrons to bring their furry friends along to outdoor dining areas at the restaurant’s discretion.

Previously, Texas health code generally prohibited dogs in places where food is served and prepared, but counties and cities could skirt state law by enacting their own rules. In some places, that meant local health authorities could require permits and impose extra inspections.

In Galveston, many restaurants welcomed dogs on their patios prior to the law passing, but for some it was more trouble than it was worth.

Popular Seawall eatery The Spot stopped allowing dogs in its outdoor eating areas when the health district doubled down on enforcement a couple of years ago.

Under the new law, municipalities are prohibited from adopting or enforcing any ordinance or rules that impose requirements on restaurants beyond the requirements outlined in the law.

Those rules are pretty simple: Restaurants have to post a sign saying dogs are permitted; dogs have to enter the outdoor dining area directly from the exterior of the restaurant; the dog cannot enter the interior of the restaurant; the customer is required to keep the dog on a leash and control it; the customer doesn’t allow the dog on a seat, table or countertop; and the restaurant can’t do any food preparation in the outdoor area where dogs are present.

Galveston’s East End eatery, Mosquito Café, had allowed people to bring dogs onto its patio area and will do again under the new law, James Clark, director of operations at Mosquito Café, said.

To meet the requirements of the new law, Mosquito Café will need to put up signs and is working on them, Clark said.

Restaurant patrons who oppose having dogs around often cite safety issues, such as the possibility that a child will approach an unfriendly dog or one dog will get aggressive with another.

“We’ve never had a bad experience here,” Clark said. “Pet owners and other patrons alike are usually excited to see dogs here, and they’re happy to have the opportunity to bring them along.”

Clark and other managers can help assure a successful doggie dining experience by making sure new patrons are aware of the rules.

“I get calls from people, asking if we are a dog-friendly establishment,” Clark said. “I explain to them that they can’t bring the dog through the restaurant, and that their dog needs to be well behaved and well mannered.

“We keep them educated before they arrive.”

The city of Galveston climbed aboard the doggie train in March when District 1 Councilman Craig Brown introduced an ordinance allowing restaurants to decide whether dogs are allowed on their properties.

The Galveston ordinance, now part of the city’s code related to animals, echoes the requirements of the state law and goes several steps further, requiring that dogs have rabies tags, that restaurants have hand sanitizer at or near all entrances and exits to outdoor patio dining areas, and requires that restaurants keep the outdoor area free of visible dog hair, dog dander and “other dog-related waste or debris.”

The ordinance goes into detail about how doggie accidents are to be treated and cleaned up and provides that staff on duty may not pet or have physical contact with a dog, with all violations subject to a $200 fine per offense.

It remains to be seen whether Galveston’s ordinance will be enforceable in full given the new state law.

Restrictions outlined in the state law do not apply to service animals.

Kathryn Eastburn: 409-683-5257;

(9) comments

Randy Chapman

Service animals get a pass. Folks have gotten ridiculous with this. Everyone can get their mutt certified now as a support animal, even online, just so that they can take them everywhere and avoid the hassle that normally occurs when you bring your pet anywhere they aren't generally allowed. It's become a total farce. Dogs in outside areas? So what.

Gary Miller

Are American dogs dirtyer or more dangerous than dogs in other countries. I've dined in 23 countries, mostly European, and can't think of one where dogs were not allowed in dinning areas. Not on leashes either. In every case the dog goes under the table, and the server brings them a bowl of water. I guess their dog owners are smarter or their dogs are better trained than ours. Stray dogs and dogs on leashes are rare in most European countries. We have concealed carry, they have big well trained dogs.

Tamala Robinson

This is ridiculous. I am sick of people and their dogs. I don't want to go to any restaurant and have to eat around anybody's dog. Man this is so unsanitary. I hope Landrys, Vic and Anthonys, Eddie Vs, Gringos and other places that I frequent don't start this mess. Leave your dogs at home and eat with them there.

Miceal O'Laochdha

As a rule, most dogs are more sanitary, better behaved, and better company in general than many of the mean-spirited humans whose company one must endure in restaurants, cafe's and bars. I must presume from your comment that you fall into that mean-spirited category. That you for letting us know which places to avoid.

Charles Hughes

I agree.Who ant to eat around dogs?

Carlos Ponce

Wait until the well trained doggie has an "accident" in the dining area.[innocent]

Don Schlessinger

That will make Galveston more like San Francisco, and LA Carlos. Ambiance!

Wayne Holt

I am currently looking for a small dog costume that my cat can wear, about a size 3 would be good. I am pretty sure it is a federal offense to question a dog whether it is actually a cat, and I have already advised my cat he is not required to answer any questions or show ID unless he is stopped when we are driving home.

Randy Chapman

Let me know what you find out. I too may try that plan! [whistling]

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