In this installment of Tabletop Wrestling, Hanna Raskin and Erika Hobart wrangle over whether it's appropriate to bring a pooch to a restaurant.
Hanna Raskin thinks restaurants should be no-dog zones.
Hold your hate mail: I already know that opposing dogs in restaurants makes me an insensitive, anti-animal jerk. In a country where 56 percent of dog owners invite their pets into bed with them, the idea that canines shouldn't be allowed to sprawl out alongside outdoor tables is downright radical - and unpopular with almost everyone.
"I'm hoping my dog will invite me to lunch," the director of Los Angeles County's health department told the L.A. Times after a rule barring dogs from fenced-in restaurant patios was rescinded earlier this year.
Really? Even you, Jonathan Fielding, defender of public welfare and champion of good hygiene? I'm clearly on my own here.
To be fair, a pack of sleepy dogs doesn't pose a serious threat to a restaurant's cleanliness. "It's not a big health risk, but it's a potential health risk," King County Public Health's Hilary Karasz last year told Seattle Magazine. According to Karasz, local laws prohibit dogs from restaurants and sidewalk tables, but the codes aren't enforced because it's impossible to distinguish plain old pet dogs from service dogs, which are allowed to go anywhere their owners take them.
And the standards for service dogs aren't too strict: We've all heard about a loving pet owner who concocted a condition so he or she wouldn't have to leave Rover at home. The greatest hardship these dog worshipers can imagine is a temporary separation. But that pain pales in comparison to the agony we dog allergy sufferers experience when exposed to dog saliva.
There's a common myth -- propagated by every dog owner who's ever invited me to dinner -- that dog fur causes allergies. While fur may be problematic for some allergy sufferers, the real culprit is doggie drool. That means it doesn't matter whether your dog has short hair, or how many time you've Dustbusted your sofa, or if we're dining al fresco. I will still sneeze. And that's the best case scenario: When an in-law insisted on my coming to her house for Thanksgiving, I was asked to leave before the dessert course because my bloody nose and blown-up, watery eyes were making everyone else uncomfortable.
So I'd much prefer you don't bring your dog to a restaurant, where a server's likely to pet its cute head and then put her hands on my plate. Forget whether the dog has fleas, or if it's spreading internal parasites by licking tables and rubbing up against chairs. I just want to enjoy a restaurant without wheezing.
There are allergies which aren't compatible with eating out. If you can't tolerate wheat, milk or eggs, for example, it's probably best to stay home (or at least stick to a few choice restaurants where the chefs are accustomed to accommodating serious dietary restrictions.)
But there shouldn't be any overlap between a dog allergy and forced restaurant avoidance because, finally, animals don't belong in restaurants. Restaurants work because we all tacitly agree to a behavioral code, which includes leaving our canines at home: We don't scream during dinner, or throw food at other tables, or try to tear off our servers' clothes. In short, we act like human beings -- which is the species that restaurants are supposed to serve.
Erika Hobart is standing up for dogs (and her fellow dog owners.)
There isn't a federal law that restricts animals from restaurants, but pesky local health ordinances that prohibit pets from restaurants. Because dogs shed and slobber. (So do people.) They can carry fleas or even worse, rabies. (So can people.) But let's be real: The average person is constantly among other people, while the average dog rarely
Obviously, it isn't just a hygiene issue. Uptight diners look at dogs in restaurants as a disturbance, an ambiance killer. But the truth is that most owners are very aware of their
dog's behavioral flaws and how they affect those around them. Everyone's seen the parents that bring their raucous kid to the sit-down restaurant. Some of these parents even think their kid's behavior is "cute." (It's not.) Meanwhile, you will be hard-pressed to
find a dog owner who thinks that bringing along their overenthusiastic, barking canine to break bread in public is appropriate.
Next time you're at a pet-friendly restaurant (which simply means they have outdoor seating), take a good look around. You're more likely to observe a woman talking too loudly because she can't handle her wine or a douchebag who thinks he has a right to talk down to his server than you are any dog that is acting like an animal.