For many people, life would be dreary without their dogs. Still, I wonder why more and more animal owners today feel compelled to foist their dogs on the rest of us.

They treat their dogs like children and expect us to do the same.

I like dogs, but not when they are in my face, running up and down beaches, sniffing at sunbathers, urinating on the sand, and barking at strangers like they are household intruders.

Or even more annoyingly, when scofflaw dog owners try to pass off their pets as “service animals” to force private businesses to accommodate them. Never mind that there is a new state law that prohibits that.

Jim Guss watches his friends dog namedWally outside Bar9HNL coffee shop. Wally was relaxing waiting for his owner Frandee Lum from Hawaii Island.
Jim Guss watches his friend’s dog, Wally, outside Bar9HNL coffee shop in Kakaako. Wally was patiently waiting for his owner, Frandee Lum from Hawaii Island, to come back out. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

On Saturday, I watched a man lead his dog into Longs Drugs in Kahala without even pretending it was a service animal. Then I watched as the dog lifted its leg to urinate on a store shelf, only stopping when the man yanked the dog’s leash.

The latest effort to make all of us spend more time with dogs is the Hawaiian Humane Society’s upcoming push at the Legislature for a new law to give restaurant owners the discretion to allow dogs to dine with us in eating establishments.

Currently, the federal Food and Drug Administration Food Code prohibits animals from entering food service establishments unless they are legitimate service animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. So-called mental health-comfort dogs are not considered service dogs under the law.
Hawaii has adopted the FDAʻs code barring dogs from eateries. If the state decides to allow dogs in restaurants,  its law would supersede the code. In 2012 and 2015, the Legislature rejected similar bills.

But Humane Society policy advocate Stephanie Kendrick thinks this year there might be a better chance because more and more people are eager for such accommodation for their pets, which she says are increasingly treated like family members.

Kendrick says this “pet friendly dining” initiative fits perfectly with the mission of the organization: “The Hawaiian Humane Society for the last 135 years has been an advocate for the human and animal bond. This is one more step in advocating for a more pet-friendly community, which we believe is important both for the health of human beings as well as the health of animals.”

She says this year’s bill also will be written in a stronger language to address public health concerns the Legislature had with past measures, especially to make it clear that allowing dogs in eateries would be an option offered to restaurant owners, not a mandate.

“It is about choices. Both for the restaurant owner and restaurant patrons,” says Kendrick.

“What is a restaurant going to do? Hire a dog bouncer?” — Bruce Anderson, Health Department director

State Department of Health director Bruce Anderson is adamantly opposed to allowing dogs anywhere near restaurant food preparation and service areas for health reasons.

“Dogs carry bacteria and parasites that are harmful to humans,” Anderson says.

He thinks it is preposterous to give restaurant owners the power to decide where dogs can sit in their restaurants when the state Health Department is the agency with the expertise to determine what constitutes healthy food preparation and service.

Anderson says a key problem with allowing dogs in restaurants is enforcement of health regulations. Who will be there to enforce them when a dog urinates in a food service area, gets in a fight with another dog or frightens other restaurant patrons? Who will end up having to clean up when a dog defecates?

“What is a restaurant going to do? Hire a dog bouncer?” asks Anderson.

Roland Longstreet, manager of ARS Café Gallery on Monsarrat Avenue, says kicking out unruly dogs and their owners is definitely a problem. Even though it is against state rules, ARS Café allows dogs into the restaurant’s seating area.

Longstreet says when a dog acts up or has a barking fit, he usually waits until the owner is leaving to tell him his pet is not welcome in the café in the future.

“The problem is with the pet owners who treat their dogs like children,” he says. “They spoil them. They don’t discipline them when they misbehave.”

“Victoria causes no trouble because she is small and perfectly behaved, but I would not want large dogs running around.” — Rolf Nordahl, owner of an Italian greyhound-Jack Russell mix

Some dog owners think their pets should be allowed in restaurants, but they say they would oppose allowing other kinds of dogs.

Waikiki resident Rolf Nordahl’s dog is an Italian greyhound-Jack Russell mix named Victoria. Nordahl is all for lapdogs and purse dogs like Victoria being welcomed, but not large dogs he says are more difficult to constrain.

“Victoria causes no trouble because she is small and perfectly behaved, but I would not want large dogs running around,” he says.

Francie Wai, the executive director of the state board that protects the rights of people with disabilities, says the board has no official  position on the issue, but some members are concerned allowing all dogs into establishments might be stressful for legitimate service dogs.

“They are worried  because many animals are not as well trained as service dogs and if you let unruly animals in a restaurant, service animals could be disturbed by them. Also some children with disabilities are afraid of dogs.”

Anderson says the only accommodation he would consider would be to allow dogs to sit with their owners in areas clearly separated from where a restaurant’s food or drinks are prepared or served. People would have to buy their food and take it well outside of any area managed by the restaurant.

As for me, I yearn for the day when dogs were treated with dignity, not forced on the rest of us; when dogs were allowed to be what they are — fine animals with brave hearts.

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