Doggy-dining approved for Vero Beach restaurants

VERO BEACH – Diners who want to share their mealtime with Fido and Princess can do so at Vero Beach restaurants – if the restaurant wants to offer such an option.

With a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Vero Beach City Council decided to pass an ordinance that will give restaurant owners the ability to offer dog-friendly dining outside their establishments. “Everywhere we go is dog friendly,” said Kim Conti, owner of Pawprints of Vero Beach. She said that while she supports giving restaurants the ability to offer doggy dining, she hopes the option will encourage responsible pet ownership.

Vero Beach veterinarian Dr. Valerie Biehl also spoke in support of the ordinance, reminding the council that pet owners who bring unruly dogs to the restaurants could be asked to leave.

Waldo’s Restaurant General Manager Lee Olsen was the lone person from the public to speak out against the proposed ordinance.

Olsen voiced concerns regarding liability and education.

“I’m a dog lover,” Olsen said, though he does not support the ordinance. He pointed out that having dogs at restaurants could lead to dog bites, tripping hazards and sanitation issues.

Olsen reminded the council that they have prohibitions in place that keep dogs off city beaches and out of city parks.

“You made that rule for a reason,” he said.

One woman said that she supports allowing dog-friendly dining though she would not take any of her three dogs to such an establishment because they would be unable to handle it.

“We are in the era of the purse puppy,” the woman added, noting that many “purse puppy” owners have had their dogs trained and are well behaved.

The ordinance did not draw debate among the Vero Beach City Council members, but instead agreement that having such a law on the books could help restaurants bring more customers to their tables.

Planning and Development Director Tim McGarry told the council that with the passage of the ordinance, he would expect the city’s code enforcement to take on additional enforcement duties.

However, McGarry estimated that the increased work would not equate to a large expense.

The Vero Beach City Council took up the issue of crafting a dog-friendly dining ordinance at the behest of longtime Vero Beach resident and Greenhouse Café owner Olske Forbes.

Forbes, who did not address the council Tuesday, had been offering doggy dining in her café’s courtyard.

The Indian River County Health Department has told Forbes that she could not continue offering such service without the city passing an ordinance permitting it.

The approved ordinance will require participating restaurants to file for a permit and follow state-issued regulations pertaining to sanitation issues.

Dogs will not be allowed to be fed while at the restaurant, though water will be allowed. Also, dogs will not be allowed to be up on a seat or on the table or touch the place settings.

Restaurant staff members will be required to use hand sanitizer in the event they have touched the animal.

Restaurants that wish to participate in dog-friendly dining can contact the city’s Planning and Development Department to receive an application for a permit.

The department can be reached by calling (772) 978-4550 or visit the department at 1053 20th Place, Vero Beach.

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