The D.C. Department of Health is stepping up its enforcement of codes that prohibit dogs in restaurants and bars. These rules have been in place for years, but they feel like wink-wink laws, especially when you spot all of the pups on restaurant patios while strolling down 14th Street NW or when you scroll through tweets from restaurants promoting their pooch patio menus or yappy hour specials.
Washingtonian reports that the health department visited Midlands Beer Garden in Park View Tuesday and inspectors also recently stopped by Wonderland Ballroom to drop off a flyer informing the proprietors and patrons that no animals can be on the premises unless they’re service animals.
Councilmember Brianne Nadeau‘s office announced yesterday that they’re working on emergency legislation regarding the issue that would be addressed Oct. 3 at the earliest. Deputy Chief of Staff Tom Fazzini tells City Paper the goal is to amend rules so that dogs would be allowed on outdoor patios.
The question of whether people should be able to bring four-legged District denizens to bars has sparked fiery debates in comments sections and shitstorms on social media. But one key perspective is missing from the discourse. No one has asked dogs if they like to sit under a table, tethered to a chair while their humans pound beers, slurp oysters, or enjoy rosé.
Okay okay, we can’t speak dog, but we did ask the people that know dogs best: a veterinarian, dog trainers, and a dog walker.
Michelle Yue is a dog trainer, certified dog behavior consultant, and the owner of Good Dog DC. “I think they really enjoy it on a whole,” she says. “I think one of the biggest problems that our dogs face is boredom and being home too much and not having enough activity. Owners who are taking their dogs out to bars, I think the dogs love it.” She calls the bar atmosphere “doggy TV” because pups get to people watch and smell new smells.
While there are exceptions, Yue says almost all dogs would choose to sit under a table with its owners over sleeping at home in the living room. Dog walker Robin Brock, who co-owns Woofpack DC, agrees. “They’re social just like us,” she says. “That’s why we get along so well. I have eight dogs with me right now, we’re walking down the street and they’re all friends. They want a place to hang out.” Brock points out that D.C. has a cat cafe. Patrons at Crumbs & Whiskers can sip coffee while curling up with the felines who roam the joint.
The owner of Anytime K9 and Spot On Training, Toni Woods, thinks properly trained dogs enjoy being out and about, with some limitations. “Take the H Street festival, dogs don’t enjoy that at all,” she says. “It’s overstimulating. There are too many people and the sidewalk is too hot. Dogs should be left at home.” But she agrees with Yue and Brock that dogs would “prefer to sit next to mom and dad under the table to sitting at home.”
That said, Woods thinks owners’ overindulgence in alcohol is a potential hazard. “Dogs can be in danger even if it’s from its own parents dropping a leash. If the drinking is in moderation and the bar isn’t overly crowded, I don’t think they’re in danger. Someone could spill a bowl of soup on a dog, but they can also spill a bowl of soup on a kid.”
Dr. Dan Teich, who owns District Vet, struggled to find reasons why dogs would be in danger on a bar or restaurant patio. “If you are responsible and remember to care for the dog first, and you have a well-trained dog, you’re in good shape,” says the veterinarian of 14 years. “There are no more hazards than walking down the sidewalk and the sidewalk is actually more dangerous because of chicken bones and broken glass.”
Tiech also researched reasons why a dog shouldn’t be allowed on a restaurant or bar patio, but again the search didn’t turn up much. “I see no logical argument to ban dogs from patios so long as owners are respectful of their surrounding patrons.”