Should dogs be allowed at cafes?

Manawatu diners could soon find themselves eating a steak or drinking a beer in the company of dogs if new food regulations going through Parliament are passed.

Restaurant and bar owners have mixed feelings about the change in the Food Bill that would give them the right to have dogs on their premises.

The bill would replace the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974, which bans animals from premises where food is prepared or sold, but a spokesman for Primary Industries Minister David Carter said it would still require operators to take responsibility for food safety in an appropriate way for their businesses.

While kitchen and food preparation areas would still be off-limits, it could allow animals access to outdoor dining areas, he said.

Tomato Cafe owner James Pettengill already lets customers have their dogs on the street outside his Cuba St business in Palmerston North.

‘‘We’ve got a couple of regulars who bring their dogs outside. I’ve even got a dog bowl if they want it.’’

But he would not like to see animals gain more access to his cafe.

‘‘It depends on the people and the dog, because some people have got these munter animals. How are you going to control it, if it jumps up and starts grabbing steaks off plates?

‘‘I reckon the owner should have the choice  but a lot of people wouldn’t be comfortable with dogs inside.’’

Nathan ‘‘Rat’’ Hiscox, who owns The Beer Barrel and The Empty Vessel in Palmerston North, said he would not allow dogs in his bars  but would make an exception for a blind person’s seeing-eye dog.

‘‘I don’t have any problem at all with a seeing-eye dog  but people just bringing in their dog and then sitting down for a beer – nah.’’

Although a dog lover, Mr Hiscox said dealing with issues such as shed hair, waste and aggressive behaviour towards other patrons would cause too much trouble.

Dog groomer Simon Coom, who runs the dog socialisation group Dogday Sunday, fully supported any law changes allowing animals to be taken to cafes and bars.

‘‘I think it’s great. If they are good dogs and well groomed, then they will pull people to a place rather than push them away.’’

Mr Coom said he once sat down with his dog outside a Palmerston North cafe, only to be moved along by the staff because of  ‘‘food safety’’ concerns.

‘‘We’ve been driving through Taupo and noticed all these people sitting with their dogs outside cafes. It’s so friendly and I think it looks nice.’’The bill has been considered by Parliament’s primary production select committee and is awaiting a second reading in the House.

Manawatu Standard