Over 20 years ago, when I was an exchange student in France, I would stare with amazement every time I saw a dog sitting next to its owner in a restaurant. It was a novelty that I had never seen before in the States. That was then, this is now. Living in California, having your dog in tow seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Anyone who has dined outside in Santa Barbara knows that it’s quite common to see a dog sitting underneath its owner’s feet. In fact, dogs seem to be everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever walked down State Street and entered an establishment without seeing a dog walking through the store. When I first moved here, I was told by locals that dogs were permitted to go anywhere, unless there was a sign stating otherwise. I even remember trying on a dress at Banana Republic, when a big Lab poked its head underneath my dressing room door. How’s that for privacy?

I know a lot of dog owners who take their dogs everywhere. Whether it’s the handbag pooches or Great Danes, it’s very rare that you won’t see a dog on an outing in Santa Barbara. Even dog lovers don’t think dogs should be allowed everywhere, especially in restaurants. Sometimes it’s hard enough to enjoy an outdoor meal amidst street noise, but who wants to see a dog cleaning its hard-to-reach places while paying for an outdoor dining experience? However, not everyone feels this way, as even my husband has said he would rather be next to a dog in a restaurant than at a table near a child who is misbehaving.

A few years ago, Florida was the first state to enact a law explicitly allowing dogs in outdoor areas of restaurants. Sheri McInvale, the former state representative who introduced the legislation, said the biggest opposition to the bill had to do with concerns over dog bites and fights, not health issues. The law doesn’t specifically allow dogs into restaurants; rather, it gives area governments the freedom to make such laws. The final bill signed into law contained a provision that restaurants had to carry a minimum level of liability insurance in order to participate in the program.

Given all the dining with dogs, it might come as quite a shock to most people that in Santa Barbara, until recently, dogs were not allowed to accompany their owners at restaurants. California Health and Safety Code states: “[L]ive animals may not be allowed in a food facility, which includes dining areas where food is served.” The health concerns are that dogs may carry diseases that are transmittable to humans and they could be a potential source of illness when their hair, fur, saliva, or fecal material accidentally contacts nearby surfaces and/or food. It is also believed that there are safety risks when an animal’s behavior can’t be controlled.

However, in recent months, the Santa Barbara County Environmental Heath Services (EHS) has put in place a new policy that allows animals in outdoor patio areas under certain circumstances and at a restaurant owner’s discretion. For some time, there has been interest on the part of some restaurant owners and members of the community to allow dogs in outdoor dining areas. At issue was the interpretation of the California Health and Safety Code that governs all food facilities in the state, including Santa Barbara County restaurants. The new EHS policy reassesses this issue by reviewing outdoor dining service operations and clarifies requirements for restaurants that want to allow dogs in outdoor dining areas.

Given the love that Santa Barbarans have for their dogs, I’m sure the majority of the population will be pleased with the new policy. How do you feel about dining with dogs? Post your comments online!


Animal Shelter Assistance Program Needs Kitten Foster Homes

Don’t kittens just make you smile? If the answer to this question is yes, then we have the perfect job for you—kitten fostering. Kitten fostering is a wonderful way to experience the fun and joy of kittens without making the commitment of permanent adoption. We have many fostering opportunities–from just a few days to a few months, bottle-feeding, queens with nursing kittens, and playful toddler kittens that just need to grow big enough for their spay/neuter surgery.

ASAP currently has over 80 kittens in foster care and with more kittens arriving every week, we are actively seeking new fosters. It’s a great way to take home some fun and also provide a loving first start for these little furry orphans.

Please contact Kaitlyn Stewart at 403-3445 or kaitlyn.stewart17@gmail.com to find out more about fostering opportunities.

Adoptable Pet of the Week


Hippie is a 12-month-old male, neutered dachshund/miniature pinscher mix who would make a fantastic addition to your home. He can be shy around strangers but once he gets to know you he is very playful and full of energy. He would make a perfect lap dog and show you unconditional love. His sweet brown eyes will be sure to win you over!

For more information, visit the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Road, or call 964-4777. Shelter hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. You can also visit www.sbhumanesociety.org for more information.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.