Most four-legged patrons of pet-friendly restaurants would have to remain outside, under a bill proposed this week by state Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando.
The proposal (HB 243), filed for consideration during the 2020 legislative session, would prohibit household pets from “traveling through or remaining in portions” of public food establishments “in order to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the public.” While the bill wouldn’t pre-empt existing local ordinances, it would direct the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation to adopt rules and create a publicly accessible website for complaints.
Flagler Beach has one such ordinance, which allows for restaurants to decide whether their establishment is open to dogs or not. Several restaurants in the city allow dogs inside and in food-serving areas. The city tried banning the practice in 2011, but the backlash was severe, and the city reversed itself. No such allowance is on the books in Palm Coast.
In 2006, Florida was the first states to enact a law allowing cities and counties to make doggie dining permissible. Illinois and Minnesota followed in 2008, then Tennessee in 2009. Florida’s law required those local governments to enact such allowances through explicit ordinances. The ordinances are required to outline regulations, from ensuring that dogs are kept leashed to sanitary conditions on staff to inclusions of clean-up stations, and so on. As of this year, Florida was one of just 11 states that allow the practice (though service animals are exempt in states that prohibit it).
The proposed state law wouldn’t bar service animals from accompanying their owners inside. The tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida says on its website that, “Dog-friendly outdoor restaurants, bars and craft beer pubs abound throughout the state, some offering ‘yappy hour’ canine-friendly designated times, others with an open-door doggie policy around the clock.” The 2020 legislative session will start Jan. 14.
–FlaglerLive and the News Service of Florida