'Nice to have that option': Windsorites support legislation that would permit dogs on patios

The provincial government's proposed legislation to permit dogs on restaurant patios is still under consultation and likely won't come into force until January 2020, but some Windsorites said they already support the upcoming rule-change.

'This is one of the best things I've heard in a long time,' says Jamie Gates

Ontario's PC government will be consulting with members of the public, as well as private sector organizations, before finalizing new rules that would permit dogs on restaurant patios. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

The provincial government's proposed legislation to permit dogs on restaurant patios is still under consultation and likely won't come into force until January 2020, but some Windsorites say they already support the idea. 

Ontario's Progressive Conservative (PC) government made the announcement in Uxbridge, Ont. last Friday, adding that a proposed rule change would permit dogs in "areas where low-risk foods like pre-packaged foods, fresh fruit and most snacks are sold alongside beer, wine and spirits."

The government said it's seeking feedback from both members of the public, as well as private sector operators who would be affected by the new rules, until Nov. 27.

Jamie Gates, who owns a six-year-old Great Dane named Jimmy, said the provincial government's announcement was "one of the best things I've heard in a long time."

"I can't say I'm used to bringing them out to eat with me, but it is nice to have that option," she said. 

Jamie Gates with her Great Dane Jimmy. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Gates added that she would bring her dog with her to a restaurant, but only if the business had room for her pet.

"I have a big dog," she said. "So I try to be respectful that he does take up a lot of space and that's one thing to consider."

Brian Yeomans, who serves as the board chair for the Downtown Windsor BIA, said revisions to existing legislation governing where dogs are allowed to be in restaurants would be "a welcome change."

Downtown Windsor BIA board chair Brian Yeomans said he sometimes sees businesses provide water dishes to pets tied up outside patios. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Yeomans said he hasn't heard complaints from pet-owners about the province's existing rules, though he added that he's noticed restaurants will sometimes provide a water dish for any dogs tied up outside patios.

"So the people that have patios already want dogs on their patios or pets on their patio," said Yeomans. "I don't think it's a negative … I just honestly think it's a matter of semantics."

Health, nuisance concerns

Still, not all Windsorites who spoke with CBC News supported changes to existing rules.

Beverly Dietrich, a self-described lifelong Windsor resident, said she's comfortable with animals outside of restaurants, but doesn't believe they should be allowed inside.

She said she's concerned about cleanliness and food hygiene.

Beverly Dietrich said she likely wouldn't bring her own dog to a restaurant patio. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"Hopefully the animal is trained so that he will not jump up and take the food, or the animal will lick the plates or anything like that," she said, adding that she likely wouldn't feel comfortable taking her own dog to a restaurant. 

"However, I'm sure if I do see some other dogs here, I'll want to go pet them," Dietrich said. 

Robert Bowen, who sometimes looks after his ex-wife's dog Cheesy, said he's comfortable with new patio rules, so long as animals are cooperative. 

"I don't see a problem as long as the owners keep the dog, and it's not a vicious dog [that] wants to attack everybody," he said. 

Bowen said that some patrons would probably complain, in the same way that patrons sometimes complain about loud or disruptive children in restaurants.

"Most people with dogs can keep their dogs quiet, or they just sit comfortably without interfering with other people," he said. 

Robert Bowen said he expects some patrons will complain about dogs on patios. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Phil Wong, manager of environmental health with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said the introduction of dogs to restaurant environments would "introduce some news variables … in terms of potential cross-contamination."

"We'll be working with our provincial government and the local municipalities and our business owners when we're out there doing inspections to make sure that we're all on the same page with these changes," he said.

Under Ontario's existing rules, live animals are prohibited anywhere food is made or served. Only certain categories of service animals — like service dogs who help individuals who are blind or low-vision — are permitted. 

With files from Sanjay Maru


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