Sen. Kelly Hancock’s take-a-dog-to-lunch bill, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law June 4, is another of the assaults against local government control that have become a habit for the Texas Legislature.

It’s not that Senate Bill 476 is bad in its effect, but it was unnecessary and outside the scope of what state-level officials should get involved in.

The bill, which goes into effect Sept. 1, will allow restaurant patrons to be accompanied by well-behaved, well-controlled dogs in outdoor dining areas such as patios and sidewalk cafés.

It doesn’t require restaurants to permit dogs in outdoor dining areas — but allows food service establishments statewide to do so if they choose.

But cities already could grant that right to the restaurants in their municipal jurisdictions.

While the Texas health codes generally prohibited dogs from being in restaurants and even in outdoor areas with patios, cities could allow it under their own ordinances.

In fact, SB 476, closely mirrors regulations on this issue local elected officials had approved in the city of Austin. It allows food service establishments to permit a customer to be accompanied by a dog in an outdoor dining area as long as: the establishment posts a sign stating that dogs are permitted; the dog doesn’t go inside the restaurant; the customer keeps the dog on a leash and under control; the dog isn’t allowed on top of chairs or tables; and no food preparation takes place in the outdoor area, according to Hancock’s office.

Most of what the bill does is shift the legal authority to regulate what happens on a city’s sidewalks and cafe patios from the city to the state of Texas.

The new law prohibits cities from adopting or enforcing any ordinance or rules that impose requirements on restaurants beyond the requirements outlined in the state law.

Not all restaurants and the like will choose to allow Fido to dine with his owner. Some eateries won’t want to deal with the compliance rules and complaints from customers who think dining with a dog is unsanitary or unsafe, which already had been the case in cities with local ordinances before Hancock’s bill passed.

However, the bill does ease regulations such as periodic fees, extra inspections and some other rules and regulations most cities have in place.

Allowing dog-friendly establishments might be a good thing for cities in Galveston County, although many people expressed opposition to the idea in the newspaper’s forums and letters section.

Before Senate Bill 476 passed, they might have had an opportunity to express that opposition in person at a city council meeting.

Supporters of the bill will argue that it grants the right of choice to business owners, but the actual fact of the matter is that business owners will be exercising a privilege. It’s just a privilege granted by the state rather than the city.

• Angela Wilson

Angela Wilson: 409-683-5239; angela.wilson@galvnews.com 

(9) comments

David Hardee

This article is so apropos in this environment where Federal and state governments are swirling with such antagonism they cannot produce a resolution on important matters. In frustration they resort to debating frivolous items that encroach on the local control. Victorious on SB-476 our legislators have the audacity to declare accomplishment for the people. The central theme of this article is to illustrate that the SB-476 tentacles of government erode our freedoms. The dog is not the issue. The issue is micro management (control) over your and my existence. Here we see the state reaching down and usurping a local control. And as the article points out this legislation on local establishments creates a much more complex atmosphere when deciding – dogs or no dogs. Isn’t it tragic that the state legislature while reviewing all of the issues pending decision finds this conflict between patron, restaurants and dog critical enough to move to the head of their list?

Gary Scoggin

Exactly. This Legislature hates giving freedom to cities, counties and businesses. They are the epitome of the nanny state. Yet they call themselves Conservative Republicans.

Carlos Ponce

State control vs. local control vs. restaurant owner control. With this law the responsibility and liability falls into the lap of the restaurant owner. If the restaurant owner believes his or her clientele desires a "dogs allowed" policy they can accommodate. But they also assume the liability that comes with that decision. With the possibility of a dog attacking a patron or another dog on the premises or slippage occurring from a dog "accident" the owner should hesitate before allowing it. Even the best trained, best behaved dogs have their moments.

Michael Jozwiak

What can be done about people bringing dogs into Kroger??? People bring them in all the time, and they are not 'service dogs.' Kroger management just lets it happen. They say they cannot do anything about it. I've seen people wheeling around a shopping cart that has two dogs, and a young woman bring in a full size poodle that was just tugging at the leash. Health dept doesn't / can't respond quickly and Kroger management condones it daily.

Don Schlessinger

I'm a Kroger customer and frequently see people with dogs in the store. I've never seen a dog misbehaving or making noise. I don't have a problem with dogs in restaurants or in a grocery store, after all they are family members.

Diane Turski

Local Control = Local Accountability! Elections have consequences! Vote OUT the state legislators who are supporting these state micro-managing power grabs!!

Carlos Ponce

"state micro-managing power" Since the new law puts responsibility and liability in the hands of restaurant owners that's as "local" as you can get. If you don't like the businesses' policy - don't go there.

David Hardee

Don - Respectfully - Your opinion and the opinion of other will conflict. The point is do we want the government to dictate. Please - lets not wander into the SERVICE dog argument, hypotheticals, sanitary etc. that will produce circular arguments. The point is how far into your personal life should government control reach, Or can't you and your dog maneuver through existence in society without a government dictate.

Don Schlessinger

Thank you David, my comment was actually a reply to another Kroger customer. But, I can't see where this silly little law is taking local control away from anyone. What it does do is give a proprietor the ability to control admission of dogs to a store or restaurant. He gets to make the decision, based on his willingness to accept liability for it. Is that not local control?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.