OLYMPIA, Wash. – If dog-loving lawmakers prevail, Fido could soon be sidling up to bar stools around Washington state under a measure that would allow well-behaved, leashed canines to join their human companions as they down their favorite microbrews.
The measure was introduced by Sen. Ken Jacobsen, a Seattle Democrat who got the idea at the Fish Tale Brewpub, formerly known as the Fish Bowl, in downtown Olympia.
"I was sitting at the Fish Bowl looking at all the dogs outside sitting in the cold and the rain, while all the owners were warm inside," said Jacobsen, who doesn't own a dog.
"There's all sorts of places you can bring animals now. You can take dogs into hotels. My God, some people are carrying dogs in their purses. Why can't we have them in the bars?"
The bill would allow bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to welcome dogs, as long as they accompany their owners and remain leashed. Establishments wouldn't be required to allow dogs, except for service animals.
The Senate Labor, Commerce, Research and Development Committee scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for Jan. 30.
Janna Goodwin with the National Conference of State Legislatures said she could not find any states with similar laws or any that are considering them this year.
Jacobsen said he expects to encounter opposition to his proposal.
"I imagine I'll get a lot of criticism, like, 'Don't you have something more important to do?' Well, talk to the dog lovers. In my mind, it's giving them some flexibility," he said.
Lisa Owens, owner of The Mark restaurant in Olympia, agreed.
She said she wouldn't change the policy at her restaurant, but would like the law to pass so she could bring her 112-pound Rottweiler, Ida, with her when meeting friends at bars.
"If people were asking me to go somewhere and I could bring my dog, I might be more likely to go," she said.
But Mike Duffy, walking along a pier with his German shorthaired pointer, Emma, said he didn't think it was a great idea.
"If you want to take your dog out, go for a walk," he said. "If you want to go to the bar, leave the dog outside or at home."
Health officials said the state rule banning pets from restaurants and bars is based on a food code standard set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"Animals don't use the toilet and they shed and they sometimes drool, and those are potential issues with food," said Joe Graham, public health adviser for the Washington state Department of Health.
"I'm not against dogs," said Graham, who doesn't own any. "But dogs can transmit disease. "It's not common, but it could happen."
The place where Jacobsen's idea crystalized would likely remain dog-free.
"We usually have a crowd, so having the animal being a part of that atmosphere would be difficult," said Lyle Morse, shareholder and president of the company that owns the pub. "And this is coming from a dog owner."