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Will Hawai‘i Law Change Allow Doggie Dinner Dates?

February 12, 2019, 11:06 AM HST
* Updated February 12, 11:25 AM
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Testimony on HB 681 was heard by the Hawai‘i Committee on Agriculture on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019.

HB 681 would allow restaurant owners or managers to make their restaurants dog-friendly at their discretion, provided that certain conditions are met.

Nine states have laws permitting dogs (other than service animals) to join their owners in restaurant outdoor seating areas, according to Pew Research Center.

Ten states have laws addressing the issue: California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

In addition, Virginia recently passed legislation allowing dogs at breweries and in winery tasting rooms.

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In states where canines aren’t allowed at restaurants and breweries, it’s largely because of health codes, Pew Research Center reported. Additionally, some people are allergic to dogs, are afraid of them or simply don’t want to be around animals while eating.

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Proponents of the dog-friendly restaurant laws argue that food and drinks can be safely prepared because the four-legged friends are only allowed in outdoor seating sections.

However, the Hawaii Restaurant Association opposed HB 681 in written testimony furnished to the media.

“We love them, but keep dogs out of restaurants,” said HRA Legislative Chair Victor Lim. “Yes, the bill states that it is voluntary, but the majority of the restaurants feel that the bill would put undue pressure on them from dog owners. Most of our restaurants here are generally smaller in size and do not have separate spaces for customers to eat. How to police the size of the dog, distinguish the ones that will behave, that won’t soil the facilities and how to get the owners to be responsible for their dogs, and respect the comfort of customers with allergies? The bottom line is that the restaurant staff will be the ones doing all the cleaning to make sure that the facility and personal staff cleanliness standards are met at all times.”

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After a vote, Hawai‘i Committee on Agriculture members recommended that the measure be passed with amendments.

The votes were as follows:

6 Ayes

Aye: Rep. Creagan

Ayes with reservations: Reps. DeCoite, Cachola, Onishi, Perruso, Okimoto

Noes: none

2 Excused: Reps. Cabanilla Arakawa, Holt

The Senate has not yet addressed the bill.

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