If you would enjoy having your dog with you for a dinner out – and we know there are people who do, since we are among them – you may have reflected on how odd it is, that in this country, the only dogs allowed in restaurants are authentic Service Dogs; while in Europe it apparently is quite common to see dogs out with their owners – in fine restaurants, and in fast food joints, alike.
We have dined with our German Shepherds (the fondly remembered Drew, and now young rescue-dog Sable) at a number of restaurants in the area which allow outdoor dining with companion dogs.
The first at which we experienced this was on the front porch of the Brooklyn neighborhood's "Berlin Inn" a number of years ago. Under its current ownership and new name, "Brooklyn House", the excellent food and leisurely dining on its porch is something we and Sable look forward to with regularity.
The problem with that is, it's hard to dine outside in cold and wet weather. We have actually had Thanksgiving on that porch under a bunch of umbrellas with our pooch; and although the meal was great and the dog was enthusiastic, the human beings present were heavily bundled, and (alas) one of us had rain dribbling down the back of his neck and into his clothing.
On the first comparatively warm and dry day of 2017 – January 29 – we had Sunday Brunch on that porch with Sable, and with a friend, Kimberly Koehler, who describes herself as a "retired neighborhood activist".
Kimberly is a dispassionate party in this discussion, because she only has cats. However, she's a dog show enthusiast, enjoys dining with Sable (and Sable with her, as the accompanying photograph makes clear), and she has been to Europe and seen the ease with which dogs and people gather together in restaurants.
She would like to see that take place here; but she knows some people would be against it, and their feelings would have to be taken into account at any participating restaurant; and she also knows some dogs are not temperamentally suitable for such social occasions.
Kimberly actually began a conversation via e-mail with the State of Oregon on this subject in January – and Erica Vaness at DHS responded: "The food safety rules in Oregon were last updated in 2012 and are based upon recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration, which does not allow non-service animals in any part of a restaurant. During that rule adoption process, we had a lot of discussion on allowing dogs in restaurants. After input from both the food service industry and regulatory officials, we agreed to add a rule that allowed dogs in outside seating areas only under certain conditions. However, there was not any interest or support for allowing non-service animals in restaurants. At this time, we are not planning to update our food safety standards. You can contact your local legislative representative and pursue a change of the statute if you are interested."
We asked Kimberly her thoughts about how dogs might safely accompany their families into Oregon restaurants, and here is her response…. ______________
"It's amazing what a casual conversation with friends can lead to. A statement that began 'I wonder if…' has now inspired a project. We will call it the 'Doggie Diner' Project.
"Here's the fantasy: neighborhood restaurants that wish to participate would have an identifying sticker at their entrance (a paw print?), indicating that on certain days of the week specially-licensed dogs could enter with their owners and either dine with them, or as is the case in many French restaurants, simply sleep nearby.
"The Oregon Health Authority has already kindly responded to our initial inquiries on the subject, pointing out that certain rules would need to be changed….legislatively speaking. Undaunted by that challenge, we shall list here the pros and cons of the 'Doggie Diner Project' as we see them, and solicit input from BEE readers.
"(1) What if veterinarians could certify that a given animal is healthy and possessed of a non-aggressive personality? That qualifying canine would receive a photo ID card, or maybe a tag for its collar, allowing entry into the 'Doggie Diner' restaurants during designated days/times allowed. Since 2012, dogs have officially been allowed in OUTSIDE seating areas. In a foot of snow, that's not such a great idea.
"(2) The certification of a dog would include instructions to the owner about making sure the animal does not impede the safe movement of the wait staff. Many dog owners who wish to take their pets into a restaurant may own smaller dogs that could simply curl up on a chair or bench at the table.
"(3) If a dog misbehaves, any liability issues rest with the owner, NOT the restaurant, nor the veterinarian who certified the animal.
"(4) Participation by restaurants would be strictly voluntary. I already know of one, The Brooklyn House on S.E. 12th (just south of Powell Blvd.), whose owner would love to welcome certified dogs inside, if state rules allowed."(5) We recognize some people are allergic to dogs, or just don't like them. That's why 'Doggie Diners' would participate only on specified days and times. Ideally, someone with extra money in their checking account will come forward and open a 'Doggie Diner' which families that are not canine-enthusiastic can avoid.
"(6) Service animals are already allowed in restaurants.
"(7) We know of dogs with separation anxiety, no doubt triggered by abandonment issues. A carefully crafted 'Doggie Diner' program would allow the owners of such dogs to spend money in local restaurants.
"Not such a bad plan. Or is it? Please respond with your suggestions."
We will either run them in the Letters column, or if there are enough of them, maybe assemble them into follow-up "From the Editor". Your turn. What do you think?