Unleashing summer: Pet owner hopes new patio rules will open more doggy doors

Restaurants have long embraced the idea of a doggy bag. Embracing the doggy? Not so much. But a change in laws governing outdoor patios has at least one Edmonton dog owner hoping for for positive progress on that front

Provincial laws no longer require sidewalk patios to be fenced or adjacent to a business

One pet owner is happy about the provincial government's changes to regulations around sidewalk patios. (Danielle Bauer/Change.org)

Restaurants have long embraced the idea of a doggy bag. Embracing the dog? Not so much.

But a change in laws governing outdoor patios has at least one Edmonton dog owner hoping for for positive progress on that front.

Linda Hoang, an Edmonton lifestyle blogger and self-described mom to a house full of fur babies, says one of her most popular blog posts is a spring 2017 list of pet-friendly patios in the city.

"Some dog-friendly patios, it's sort of like dog friendly with an asterisk," Hoang said Friday on CBC's Radio Active. "It's friendly but the dog has to be on the other side of the fence, or it's friendly but your dog can't be here or there.

"The best dog-friendly patios are the ones where the dog can actually be right at your table, or right at your feet, or even sitting right with you."

Last July, the Alberta government loosened its regulations around sidewalk patios. It removed the requirement for a one-metre high enclosure around licensed outdoor patio spaces, instead allowing patios to be defined with planters or furniture.

As well, patios no longer need to be physically attached to an indoor space. Alberta Health Services has said that benches and tables on sidewalks that are outside of a food-permitted facility's premise are public spaces, and therefore not regulated.

There are increasingly more Edmonton restaurants that now have patios that are dog-friendly. (@pauliepervert/Instagram)

Hoang says some of her favourite patio spaces incorporate those types of public seating spaces, like benches outside of a cafe, where dogs are welcome.

"It's all open space, it spills out into the sidewalk so you can put your dog right next to you and have your dog sit with you," Hoang said.

Getting permission to allow dogs directly inside the premises is trickier, but several Calgary businesses — including the Vin Room and The Ranch — have obtained AHS approval last summer to do so.

The key issues are that safe food handling practices are followed and efforts made to ensure the patio area is dog-friendly, such as washable surfaces, clean-up facilities and signage that clearly states the rules for Fido's owners.

Hoang understands that some businesses, concerned about their customers, might be hesitant to allow dogs near or inside the premises. She said she's gotten some looks when with her dogs, one of whom is a larger Husky-cross.  

"Is this dog well-behaved, is this dog going to jump on me, is this dog going to eat my food? You can see that flash in people's eyes," she said. 

But there is an economics question as well.

A 2017 study done by American business solutions agency Gale found that 44 per cent of millennials — adults born between 1982 and 2004 — are unleashing their parental instincts on their pets.

Hoang said her own friend group provides ample evidence to support the idea of pets as starter children.

And when it comes to going out with her family, Hoang makes no bones about it — in summer, she'll always choose places where her dogs Olive and Artie are welcome.

"When it is so nice and you want to go and walk your dog, it makes sense  to either start or end that experience by grabbing some food or grabbing a drink and to not be limited by where you can go," said Hoang.

"For us, if I"m making my decision about where I'm going to spend my money … then I am looking to pick the ones that are more pet or dog friendly." 

With summer weather returned to Edmonton, Hoang is looking forward to updating her blog post and hopes to see more patios joining the pet-friendly forces.

"When the rules changed last year, patio season was kind of over," Hoang said, "but I would imagine —  or at least hope — that business owners have been working behind the scene since then to make this the summer of dogs."