Plan calls for dogs
to be allowed in

Cpl. Rita Levergood and her husband disagree whether four-legged members of their family should be able to join them out to dinner. The state, however, is clear: It is against the law.

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A state senator's proposal going before a Department of Health committee this week would make it easier for animal lovers like Levergood to dine out with the pets they say are like family.

"I hate to leave them at the house by themselves," said Levergood, 21, who owns two dogs with her husband. "I most definitely would like to bring them."

Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo) wants to see state health rules eased to permit restaurants the option of allowing dogs into outdoor seating areas.

His request faces a vote Thursday by the state Advisory Council on Food Protection Practices. If it survives, it will endure the public hearing process. If it is adopted, Hawaii would join 21 other states with similar pet-friendly dining rules, according to Tara Kain, of

It was at a small cafe in Biarritz, France, that Hemmings came up with the idea. He says he still cannot erase the memory of an elderly woman whose tiny dog was seated beside her.

"I would have to surmise that this dog was a very important part of this woman's life," he said. "It was so healthy."

Current health regulations forbid animals -- except those of the police and the disabled -- from food establishments. Violators face fines and, for repeated offenses, closure.

Still, there are local restaurants that already allow pets to sit outdoors with their owner, an apparent health violation that Hemmings' proposal seeks to legalize.

Les Iczkovitz, co-owner of Volcano Joe's near the University of Hawaii, said he was unaware of any regulations prohibiting pets in outdoor dining areas. His restaurant offers what it calls the Pooch Porch and Cat Walk to appease pet lovers, and he said there have been no problems with the area.

"It's like their child," Iczkovitz said of his pet-toting patrons. "They won't let their child misbehave; they won't let their animal misbehave."

But even some self-proclaimed dog lovers say they are not fond of the proposal.

"I wouldn't intentionally sit next to a dog," said Kelly Birch, a 61-year-old Honolulu salesman who likes dogs enough to hang a puppy calendar in his house. "I don't think I'd like that."

The idea has even divided spouses, with Lance Cpl. Ian Levergood, Rita's husband, calling the proposal "dumb."

"You get a dog that's not behaved in a restaurant, and it's not going to be a comfortable place to eat," the 22-year-old Marine said.

Hawaiian Humane Society President Pamela Burns disagrees. She would like to see restaurants permit more than just dogs, the only animal included in Hemmings' proposal.

"For those of us who have dogs, it could have a tremendous impact," Burns said.

Hemmings hopes to be able to have his Portuguese water dog join him out to eat. Iczkovitz said it seems like a natural right.

"More and more, people treat their pets like family," he said. "You should be able to take your family to a meal."


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