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.