NH HB 1417 would allow ‘well-behaved’ dogs into restaurants if the owner of the restaurant approves. This law has been a long time coming, and it makes good common sense. Currently, the bill is before the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee–you can find a list of Senators on that committee here. Below is my letter to Senator Reynolds in support of this bill. Feel free to use it (or parts of it) if you would like to write to her (or your Senator).
Dear Senator Reynolds,
I am writing today to express my support of HB1417, ‘allowing companion animals in certain parts of restaurants.’ There are several reasons this bill would be beneficial to the economy of the state, as well as to its residents.
Firstly, as a resident of Plymouth, I frequently see dogs accompanying shoppers on Main Street, even sitting in outdoor areas such as in front of Chase Street Market. These people represent potential customers for the many Plymouth restaurants, but the lack of outdoor seating at all but two restaurants (and the frequently inclement weather) prevents dog owners from patronizing any of these establishments with their pets. I have personally spoken with restaurant owners who have expressed a desire to allow patrons to bring their dogs into their restaurants, but who cannot because of existing law. I suspect this situation is repeated across the state, from town to town.
Secondly, allowing dogs within an establishment would give restaurant owners the ability to easily avoid staff issues involving service animals. The current legislation surrounding service animals is often difficult for owners to explain to staff, with the result that many simply tell their staff to allow any dog into the restaurant if the dog’s owner claims it is a service animal. In reality, asking the dog’s owner any additional questions could result in legal action against the restaurant, and simply letting in any dog that a person claims is a ‘service dog’ is the easiest and safest course of action. HB 1417 would alleviate the awkwardness of this process, as owners could simply allow all dogs into the public areas of their restaurant and inform staff of that policy.
Finally, in response to the position that allowing dogs into a restaurant poses a health risk, I would offer two counter-arguments:
1) If dogs posed a significant health risk in the public areas of a restaurant, such risk should (and probably would) outweigh the benefits of allowing service dogs into an establishment. Clearly, this is not the case.
2) While there are numerous regulations pertaining to hygiene in non-public areas of a restaurant (e.g. ’employees must wash hands’), I am not familiar with any which govern the hygiene of an individual patron of such an establishment. In fact, I believe that BFOQ for positions in non-public areas of a restaurant are such that individuals requiring a service dog to perform their job may be refused employment, as that animal’s presence in food prep areas would violate health codes. Despite this, a restaurant’s patron may use the bathroom facilities, not wash their hands, and proceed to exchange money with their server. It is difficult to imagine how a dog’s presence could increase the risk of disease transmission when compared with this example, yet this behavior is perfectly legal.
Based on these reasons, I ask that you support HB 1417 as it is reviewed by the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. Thank you for your time and your service to our community.