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American dogs, dining don't mix

Published February 4, 2007


Good thing I'm not the "I told you so" kind of person. Otherwise, I would be saying "I told you so" about Senate Bill 1172, also known as the "Doggie Dining" bill, passed last year by the state Legislature.

The bill gave "local communities the option of allowing restaurants to permit patrons' dogs when they and their owners are dining outdoors," according to one of the bill's sponsors, state Rep. Sheri McInvale.

I howled in protest.

"I can't fathom a restaurant owner welcoming dogs - unless he has great liability insurance and moonlights as a plaintiff's attorney," I wrote in April.

I envisioned bitten ankles, fighting ca-nines, mangled fingers and tripped waiters spilling scalding coffee over startled patrons.

In the end, though, it was plain old doggie poop that persuaded a pioneer doggie-friendly restaurant, St. Petersburg's Moon Under Water, to ban dogs.

It seems a visiting pooch was having, um, "bowel problems," right in the middle of the dining area, an event reminiscent of the uber-gross "Mr. Creosote" vomiting scene in the Monty Python movie, The Meaning of Life.

At rush hour, dogs and their human companions lined up to wait for tables. Puppy barking, urinating and worse were not exactly conducive to a fine dining experience for those already seated.

"Ultimately, we're here to serve people, not dogs," Moon Under Water owner Mark Logan told Times reporter Elena Lesley.

I suspected when this bill was proposed that the proposers were thinking about those romantic European bistros where diners and dogs relax literally cheek to jowl. I've been there, seen that, and it was okay.

But those dogs, like their European owners, have been remarkably well-behaved and low-key, not the jumpers, yappers and manglers that we Americans tend to grow (and, sadly, be).

Some other St. Petersburg restaurants have applied for the doggie dining permit, bless their hearts, but even though Tampa gave the okay, no restaurant there has applied.

[Last modified February 3, 2007, 20:03:38]

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