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Raise The Woof: Businesses Rally Behind Bill Allowing Pups On Patios

Land Grant Brewing Company
Land Grant's "Pups 'n' Pints" event raised money for the Capital Area Humane Society.

Until recently, dogs could be found on the patio at the Land Grant Brewery in Columbus any time the weather was nice. But not at the moment.

The Columbus Health Department sent out letters to restaurants and bars early this summer, saying it is against state law to allow dogs on patios. Julie Keys, Land Grant’s marketing coordinator, says a lot of customers are put in the position of choosing to go to her business or stay with their dogs.

Often, she says, the latter wins, especially when customers have worked away from their pooches all day. Keys says rescue groups and humane societies are losing out too since this recent crackdown.

“This issue is really important to us, not just because collectively here at Land Grant, we are dog lovers and dog owners but it’s also important to us because we are animal advocates,” Keys says. “So, as an example, we have held events here at the brewery to raise money for different non-profits.”

Keys says that this spring, Land Grant hosted a “Pups ‘n’ Pints” event that raised over $3,500 for the Capital Area Humane Society.

The Westerman Family Foundation provides support to animal rescue groups statewide. Luke Westerman, the foundation’s director, says many dogs were also adopted during the patio events.

He says Ohio’s law preventing pups on the patio is out of step with the rest of the nation.

“The trend is more and more dog-friendly places,” Westerman says. “There are more folks, millennials, even 20, 30-somethings who don’t have kids yet but they have dogs who they treat like a kid, me being one of those folks. And it would be wonderful to take my dogs, my kids, with me wherever I go, particularly when I go dine.”

Thousands of dog owners from around the state agree. They’ve signed online petitions and written to lawmakers, asking them to change Ohio’s laws.

Republican state rep. Laura Lanese of Grove City says she’s received letters overwhelmingly supporting a bill she’s sponsoring (HB 263) that would allow business owners to decide if they’ll allow pups on their patios.

“So if they want to allow dogs, and dogs only, on their patios, that they will be allowed to do that,” Lanese says. “And we are working through some of the details too. For example, the dogs will not, in any way, be allowed to go through the restaurant.”

Lanese, a dog owner herself, says the bill is supported by restaurant and business associations. She argues it’s about allowing businesses to make choices for themselves.

While some people might not want to sit around dogs on a patio, Lanese says it’s attractive to many others.

“I think having dogs on a patio creates a festive environment. It’s fun,” Lanese says. “I know when I go out, and when we were travelling in California, my daughters always made sure to point out where the dogs were and they always wanted to go there and we were more likely to eat at a place, even if we didn’t have our dogs with us, cause it’s just a fun environment.”

The current law was passed because of sanitary and safety concerns, such as dog hair getting into food or dogs biting or scaring other patrons – though service animals are allowed.

Backers of this bill have a bone to pick with those arguments. They say restaurant owners have the right to kick out unruly or unclean dogs – just like they have the right to eject other patrons.

Until then, the dog days of summer will go by without dogs on patios.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.