To The Editor:
Re “Table for Four (Paws)” (May 28), this is a very bad law, for the following reasons.
First, this law was not “formally” requested by anyone: not by dog owners, not by any restaurant association, not by any other organization. It was the brainchild of a single state senator, some of whose constituents had simply mentioned to him that they would “like to” be able to bring their dogs into outdoor cafés. But simply because someone or some group would “like to” do something does not make it a good idea, much less one to be legislated into law.
Second, from a purely legal perspective, the law protects a very limited “class” (dog owners who would like to bring their dogs into outdoor cafés) over a far larger “class” (those who do not want to have dogs in cafés, whether those people are dog owners or not). Indeed, it could be argued that the law actually gives more rights to dogs than to humans. Unless there is some truly “compelling reason” for this (and there is not), it is inappropriate and wrong-headed.
Third, as your article notes, there has not been nearly enough research yet to support the (weak) contention that the health risks of having dogs in outdoor cafés are minimal. To pass a law “relaxing” the few health laws that do exist, without having solid evidence to support doing so, is also inappropriate, and potentially dangerous.
Fourth, as your article also notes, there have already been issues, including one establishment that sought a permit, only to rescind it three months later due to issues with dogs yapping at each other (and at patrons), and vomiting from human food given to them. Many restaurant owners also realize, correctly, that the law will bring with it potential liability issues. Indeed, the first time a server or busser trips over a dog leash, injuring themselves and/or others, not only will the restaurant have workers compensation to pay out, but civil suits are sure to follow. And that is just one of many possible scenarios.
Finally, with respect to service animals (which are already permitted in outdoor cafés), it is important to note that, as defined by the ADA, a “service animal” is trained not only to do “specific tasks” (which is why “emotional support animals” are not considered “service animals” under the ADA), they are also specifically “socialized” to remain calm around other dogs, and around humans. While many “personal” animals may indeed be well-behaved, many may not be: it is essentially a crapshoot.
Ultimately, although well-intentioned (and good intentions are, according to Samuel Johnson, what hell is paved with), this law was simply not well-thought-out, and there are far too many uncontrollable variables – some of which are likely to lead to harm to person or property.
This law should be withdrawn in the State Assembly.