Dogs in cafes debate highlights over-regulation by local governments

Australians generally have much more conservative attitudes to pets in public places than people in other countries. I remember vividly one bus trip in Prague in the late nineties when I was the subject of a lot of attention from two playful German Shepherds, appropriately muzzled, luckily. We generally don’t allow dogs and other pets on public transport or at cafes or restaurants in Australia, arguably due to concerns about public health and safety. But attitudes are changing, with many people now seeing their pets almost as substitute children, and Government regulation has changed as well, with the Queensland Government now allowing pets in outdoor eating areas. This has prompted local governments to reconsider their own regulations, as ultimately they have final say over the rules. The Sunshine Coast Daily reported yesterday (Have your say on a bone of contention):

DOGGIE do, or doggie don’t?

That is the question on everyone’s lips as Sunshine Coast Council reaches out for community feedback on a proposed law to allow dogs in eating establishments.

Council officers will start visiting restaurants and cafes across the Coast to help owners understand the new proposed laws to allow dogs in outdoor dining areas.

The council is looking to change the local law to mirror the Queensland Government’s Food Act 2006 and allow dogs in designated outdoor dining areas where permitted by the business owner.

This strikes me as a clear case of over-regulation with two levels of Government involved in setting rules on the simple question of whether pets should be allowed in cafes and restaurants. The Queensland Government law appears reasonably clear – it makes a lot of sense for the business owner to decide – so I can’t really understand why local governments then have to impose their own by-law. If people are worried about pets going to cafes, I’m sure they’ll be able to find a cafe somewhere nearby that doesn’t allow pets.

There is potentially a great deal of silly regulation at the local government level that is constraining businesses and should be removed. Indeed, the Queensland Competition Authority recommended last year, in it Final Report on Reducing the Burden of Regulation, that “the OBPR [Office of Best Practice Regulation] prepare a separate paper, in conjunction with the Department of Local Government, regarding local government red tape reduction.”  This was supposed to be prepared to inform planned Government consultations with local governments in late 2013. I can’t find a copy of this recommended paper on the QCA website so I’m unclear if it was followed through with. If it wasn’t, it should be prepared as a matter of priority, as I suspect there are many silly local government regulations burdening Queensland businesses and consumers.

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6 Responses to Dogs in cafes debate highlights over-regulation by local governments

  1. Jen says:

    Welcome news for pet owners. Also, pets are often better behaved than children nowadays.

  2. Katrina Drake says:

    Business owners have enough to worry about – without having to be involved in disputes between customers about whether pets in the business are hygienic or not, who started the dog fight , and who is going to clean up the dog dos.

    Far better to have all levels of government wasting time on dog merde, than dabbling in the economy!

  3. Sophia Rogers says:

    My recent travels through Europe was eye opening for the same reason.. Dogs were on public transport with no issues occurring from that. The owners knew they were responsible for any and everything their pet did. It was very nice to see elderly people mainly on a bus with their pet. In an outdoor eating area dogs should be allowed with the responsibility for the behaviour of the dog sitting right on the shoulders of the owner. Perhaps a note saying just that for the owner to sign might also make owners think twice if their dog is a handful. Doesn’t the State laws override a local council bylaw?

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Thanks Sophia. I’ll have to check the legislation, but it appears the Food Act doesn’t take away the power of Councils to make their own food regulations.

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