Dog owner and Delaware House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf has filed legislation that clarifies the issue of dogs having a place at outdoor dining areas.
The issue grew from out of a Delaware Division of Public Health notice posted on social media earlier this summer informing them of an existing – but rarely, enforced – regulation prohibiting patrons from bringing their pets to the outdoor seating areas.
The notice led to confusion among restaurateurs and customers. Social media posts expressed outrage, with others claiming dogs had no place at dining spots. A few dog owners claimed their pets were better behaved than children known to roam around outdoor dining areas.
The Division of Public Health went on to advise restaurants and customers that it would not enforce a ban on dogs pending further review. The division did advise restaurant staff to keep a close eye on sanitation, dog behavior and other issues.
Schwartzkopf was among those unhappy with the advisory from the state. (See below).
“I was just as surprised as they were to hear that this regulation was a long-standing rule that simply wasn’t enforced for years. I used to bring my dog with me to breakfast all the time and never knew anything about this policy,” said Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. “I know how residents and visitors thoroughly enjoy bringing their dogs with them to grab a coffee, bagel or sandwich and sit outside their favorite establishment.
“After reaching out to the Division of Public Health, I decided the best thing to do was to sponsor legislation making it clear that restaurant owners can decide for themselves whether to allow pets to accompany their owners at their outdoor seating areas. Bottom line: This was a regulation that wasn’t being enforced, so we should get rid of it. This bill will just return things to the status quo many have enjoyed for years.”
House Bill 275 would permit the owner of a beer garden or food establishment to permit leashed dogs on licensed outdoor patios of food establishments and in beer gardens. Schwartzkopf noted that the establishment still would need to abide by any health regulations and cleanliness rules.
HB 275 has 18 co-sponsors and has been assigned to the House Administration Committee. The General Assembly is on recess and will return on January 14.