TARPON SPRINGS — Tarpon Springs may be the next Pinellas city to adopt doggie dining.
Under a proposed ordinance, restaurants could designate an outdoor dining area for patrons to dine with their four-legged friends. Restaurant owners would have to get a city permit and abide by rules such as banning pets from furniture and requiring that dogs stay leashed.
"At the end of the day, my focus is helping the restaurants in town get people inside their doors," said Commissioner David Banther, who proposed the ordinance.
In St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Dunedin, Gulfport, St. Pete Beach, Largo and Tampa, which already allow doggie dining, the new ordinances mostly seem to be going well but for some small issues.
In Clearwater, for example, several restaurants began allowing dogs without first getting the required permits, raising concerns about sanitation violations.
The sanitation concern was also not lost on Tarpon's Planning and Zoning Board, which recommended 4-1 last week that city commissioners pass the proposed ordinance when it comes before them Oct. 1.
Although not all board members seemed enthusiastic about the idea of eating at a restaurant where customers bring their pets, they mostly supported leaving the decision about doggie dining up to restaurant owners and their patrons.
But the idea got sharp criticism from board chairman Ted Frantzis, a dentist who said he has spent years studying the transfer of bacteria.
It's nearly impossible even in a hospital to get all employees to wash their hands and abide by sanitation rules, he said. And germs travel in hidden ways.
For example, what if a dog licks an owner's plate and then a waiter grabs the plate? Or licks a patron's hand, and then that person gets up and grabs a doorhandle, he said.
"Do you know what's on door handles? Are you kidding me?" he said. "That's my personal and professional opinion. This is dirty."
Under the proposed ordinance, employees would be required to wash their hands if they touch a dog, but not necessarily if they serve customers with dogs and don't touch the animals.
Board members also discussed whether restaurants should be required to have hand sanitizer for employees and whether the ordinance should include an appeal process for a restaurant that has its permit revoked.
Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-445-4155. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.