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City ordinance would allow dogs in outdoor restaurant areas

WILLMAR -- City Attorney Rich Ronning has drafted an ordinance that would let dogs accompany persons into outdoor food and beverage establishments.

A law passed by the 2008 session of the Legislature allows cities to write such ordinances.

The City Council was encouraged in June last year by a local dog owner, David Herzer, to enact an ordinance, and the request was turned over to the council's Community Development Committee.

The committee asked Ronning to draft the ordinance.

The four-member committee was to have discussed the ordinance Thursday night for possible recommendation to the council, but only two members -- chairman Bruce DeBlieck and Ron Christianson -- were in attendance at the City Office Building conference room, so no discussion took place.

Steve Ahmann was absent. Jim Dokken was also absent but he was going to have another council member attend in his place, according Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services.

Peterson said the ordinance will be placed on the agenda for a future committee meeting.

The proposed ordinance says any eating and drinking establishment with outdoor eating and drinking areas may make application to the city clerk for a license to allow dogs in the outdoor area of the establishment. Persons 18 years of age or older would be allowed to be accompanied by a dog while in the outdoor area of the licensed establishment.

Among the regulations, employees would be prohibited from touching, petting or otherwise handling dogs; dogs will not be allowed on chairs, tables or other furnishings; and dogs must wear current rabies vaccination tags.

Nothing in the ordinance would limit the right of a person with disabilities to have access to public accommodations while accompanied by a service animal as provided by law.

The ordinance would require every licensed premise to have in force at all times public liability insurance in the amount of $500,000 per person and $1.5 million per occurrence, with the city included on the policy as an additional insured.