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Doggie Bagged

Why does St. Louis have it in for man’s best friend?

By Sarah Truckey

St. Louis can explain away its rank as the most dangerous city in the United States, but when it comes to being named one of the least dog-friendly cities in the country, we might not have much to bark about.

Back in June, Men’s Health ranked the country’s 50 best cities for dogs, using criteria such as the prevalence of dog parks and grooming facilities. And after seeing how difficult it was to approve a dog-friendly ordinance earlier this summer, it’s no surprise we ranked a low 43rd.

It all began last year when Forest Park’s Boathouse got busted for allowing dogs in the open-air dining area. The St. Louis City Health Department has actually banned dogs from indoor and outdoor eateries for years, but judging by the number of pooches you can find on Euclid or in the Loop on any given night, restaurants were either oblivious to the ordinance or just looking the other way. So 28th Ward Alderman Lyda Krewson proposed an ordinance that would allow dogs to accompany their owners while eating alfresco.

But Krewson found herself in an unexpected dogfight when the Public Safety Committee rejected the proposal on grounds that the health codes weren’t up to ruff—er, snuff. And even after she added a “waterless hand sanitizer” requirement, made owners responsible for “any unsanitary condition resulting from a dog” and allowed seven wards to opt out, she still caught grief from 21st Ward Alderman Bennice Jones King: “I don’t want to be anywhere where dogs are allowed to lay back and enjoy their genitalia.”

Not even the dog lovers were unanimously behind the ordinance. One night on the dog-friendly patio at Sasha’s Wine Bar, a Webster Groves restaurant owner, a pooch proponent himself, groused about other factors that further complicate the subject: If there are bits of glass lying on the ground and a paw gets maimed, who is liable? Do dogs count when you’re measuring occupancy? What if the mutt is caught drinking underage? (OK, we made that one up.)

And the other patrons weren’t any more willing to be accommodating. “What about the cats who like to go out to eat?” someone suggested. “Or the ferrets? Why don’t we open it up to chickens?”

If the bill finally passes in August—as it’s expected to—the 42nd spot on the Men’s Health list seems attainable. But unfortunately for St. Louis, becoming like France or San Francisco, where man’s best friend is everyone’s best friend, seems a bit ambitious. We’re stuck in the well, Lassie; help get us out.

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