Opinion: Dining with your dog at an outdoor restaurant may soon be legal


You may have been taking your dog along with you to the neighborhood cafe’s outdoor patio for years, but soon that may actually be legal. Assembly Bill 1965, which blew through the California Assembly on Thursday with a 71-1 vote of approval, would allow restaurants with outdoor spaces to allow people and pooches to dine together. (Service dogs have always had a pass.)

The bill doesn’t make it mandatory that restaurants do this. It just makes it permissible if the restaurant chooses “while still providing local governments the option to determine if additional standards are necessary for their communities,” said the sponsor of the bill, Assembly member Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), in a statement. So a local municipality could still prohibit the practice, but in fact many are already allowing this without realizing it’s technically against state law. That was the experience of the animal welfare advocate who spurred the legislation.

Judie Mancuso, president of Social Compassion in Legislation, took her two Chihuahuas to one eatery without any problem, then took them to another location of the same chain and wasn’t allowed in. When she asked why, she was told it was state law. “I thought, well, that’s a law that has to change,” she said.


And although the overwhelming bipartisan support would suggest that Democrats and Republicans love their dogs with equal fervor, it was really more a reflection of the fact that the bill has the blessing of the California Restaurant Assn. Mancuso got its members on board early on. “They were ready,” she said.

I see dogs in establishments everywhere -- outdoor cafes, clothing stores -- in the city of Los Angeles, although half the time it’s probably not legal. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for workers of the giant housewares store (I won’t get them in trouble by naming it) who allowed me to shop on a busy Saturday afternoon with an an entourage that included my friend, Gale, and her large sweet Akita, Dutchess (yes, Dutchess misspells her name.) Not only did they let us in, but store staff smiled at us warmly as we traipsed from department to department, maneuvering the dog, the shopping cart and my knee scooter (I had a broken foot).

I get it that you shouldn’t take dogs into food supermarkets, but I think all the other errands we do would be just a little less stressful if we could bring dogs along.

Next stop for the bill is the state Senate, where it’s expected to pass. After that it goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. Not only would I expect the governor -- whose First Dog Sutter accompanies him everywhere around Sacramento and beyond -- to sign it, I wouldn’t be surprised if he let Sutter put his paw print on it.