Decision to allow dogs on patios in N.S. draws mixed reaction

While most patios in downtown Halifax are quiet for now, it won't be long before patrons and their pooches fill them up.

"It's going to open a lot of doors for people who have dogs and live in Halifax and in Dartmouth," said one dog owner. "You can now go to these spots and have a drink with your dog, I think it will be great."

Effective Tuesday, dogs are now able to join their owners on restaurant, bar, and cafe patios.

The province says it's another way to support the food service industry during the pandemic.

Restaurant owners say the news is welcomed.

"We're in the hospitality business, and for us to say no to our guests when they come to the door, that's not something that we ever like to do," said restaurant co-owner Geir Simensen."It's always challenging on patios, the sun is out, people want to go out walking with their dogs, and for some it's as close to a family member as you can get."

Businesses can decide whether to allow pet dogs, limit the number of dogs, or ask a customer to remove the pet if it is misbehaving.

Previously, only service animals were allowed at dining establishments.

Disability activist Paul Vienneau says that rule should never have changed.

"It's illegal to interfere with a guide or service dog as they go about their duties," Vienneau said. "Allowing untrained dogs on a patio would be an interference to these dogs."

The city says while this is a provincial decision, municipal bylaws regarding pet ownership remain unchanged and apply to patios.

"Municipal compliance officers and Halifax Regional Police have jurisdiction to respond to any dog attack complaints submitted to 311 or 911," said Halifax Regional Municipality spokesperson Klara Needler.

Meanwhile, many dog owners say they're counting down the days to patio weather.

"I'm hoping to get out on a patio when I can feel the sun on my face," said one dog owner.

Vienneau says you won't catch him on any patios that welcome dogs and he wants the province to come up with a better plan.

Simensen says, while he can't wait to welcome dogs to his beer garden and restaurant on the Halifax waterfront this summer, he and his team are also looking at different options, one of those would be an area in the beer garden where dogs are not permitted.

He says he wants to make sure everyone feels comfortable while dining at his establishment.