Dogs to be allowed on restaurant patios


Until now, it's been against the law to let dogs dine on restaurant patios. Houston restaurants can now apply for a permit to make their establishments pet-friendly.

Kevin Strickland loves his dog Buster. But even though he owns Ziggy's restaurant, Buster, or any other four-legged friend, couldn't legally set a paw on its patio.

Strickland said, "It's a really hard thing to enforce because the average Houstonian doesn't realize it's against the law, so people were constantly bringing dogs."

Restaurant patron Nhi Le was unaware of the restriction.

She said, "I didn't, I was really surprised to hear that. I thought you could always bring your dog places."

That all changed on Friday. Ziggy's is now Houston's first legal, pet-friendly restaurant patio. The Houston Health Department is now granting variances after a year of work and lobbying by fellow dog lover Pat Walsh.

"A lot of restaurant and bars in Houston are struggling right now with the recession," Walsh said. "This is a great way for them to have more flexibility in how to run their business and attract more customers and generate more revenue. So I think it's a win-win."

Restaurants can now fill out an application, have a health inspector come out, and if approved, allow dogs. It's a way for restaurateurs who often looked the other way in regards to dogs, to do it legally.

"Now it allows more openness and more freedom," explained Houston City Council Member Ed Gonzalez. "While it does happen out there, now they can actually operate under some regulation, or some understanding of how it should work, instead of constantly being at the risk of being cited."

For Strickland, it means his patio can now welcome his pet.

He said, "It's nice to have, so I'm actually thrilled that it even happened."

There are some rules -- dogs must be on leashes and there are other regulations the restaurants will have to follow. Supporters of the new regulations only expect less than one percent of Houston's restaurants to even apply for the permit.

Service dogs are not subject to the same rules, as they have always been allowed in restaurants.

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