Put on your gloves and pull out your face masks there’s a dog in the room. At least that’s the advice that seems to be coming from Larry Michael, the head of the food protection branch of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The ruckus is over whether dogs are (or should be) allowed in outdoor dining areas in North Carolina restaurants. In an interview with the Raleigh News&Observer (Read the entire N&O article here.),Michael said state rules prohibit pets from indoor and outdoor dining areas.
Okay, so animals carry disease. This is not a surprise fact. We ALL carry disease. Few could argue when I say children pose at least as much as a health risk in restaurants as dogs do. But here’s one of the most outrageous parts from the N&O article:
An e-mail message from FDA officials shared with the committee states “any fecal oral route pathogen carried in the dog’s intestine is also found on the dog’s hair because a dog grooms itself with their tongues, and in the process, spread any fecal pathogens found on the dog’s anus, to other parts of their body hair. This contaminated dog hair is shed continuously by the animal.”
So let me get this straight. Dog hair poses a health risk? Well then, I better never leave my house lest I contaminate the public. And if it poses such a risk, why haven’t I gotten sick? Like many dog owners, dog hair is simply a way of life for me. I can control it, but I’ve given up trying to eliminate it completely. It just won’t happen. So are we to ban dog owners from restaurants as well? We are all sure to carry dog hair somewhere. And should we ban dog owners from working in restuarants too? There’s a risk!
Why are state health officials silent on the other health risks associated with eating outside? Would you rather sit next to a bird dropping or a dog? Birds, squirrels and other rodents can’t be completely stopped from “contaminating” outdoor eating areas. The same goes for flys. Surely bird feces is more of a health risk than dog hair.
I want to see statistics and studies on these so-called doggy health risks. Mr. Michael, can you show me statistics on diners getting sick specifically after eating outdoors when dogs are present? No? But I bet there are plenty of cases of Salmonella and Hepatitis you can trace back to restaurants.
Since restaurant health laws originate at the state level, there are plenty of cities across the United States that have rules in place specifically allowing dogs in outdoor dining areas. Mr. Michael, are you saying these cities are dirty and are not looking out for the best interests of their dining public? Kudos to places like Washington, DC, Austin, TX and pretty much the whole state of California. And then there’s European restaurants who welcome dogs with open arms. Travel to France and it’s unlikely you’ll see a sidewalk cafe without a dog dining al fresco.
So now the state is on a mission to rewrite the restaurant rules to make it clear that dogs are prohibited. But Wake County health inspectors have more important issues to deal with. Wake County’s director of environmental health and safety told the N&O the county is “more focused on enforcing rules related to employee hygiene, contamination, food temperatures and approved food sources.” Thank goodness someone in the state is working on protecting us from actual health risks.
So what do you think dog owners? Are we being unfairly targeted? Is the logic behind this rule flawed?