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Restaurants Can Welcome Pets To Patio

http://66.225.205.104/LM20100830.mp3

Dogs and cats have long been banished from restaurants in North Carolina. But the state rules are changing and beginning this week restaurants will have the option of allowing pets in outdoor dining areas, provided they're on a leash. Jeffery Latham is the general manager at Mac's Speedshop, a barbecue joint in south Charlotte. It has a big patio out front and every week about 20 people come with their pets expecting to chow down with their dog or cat beside them. "It always breaks our heart to turn them away," says Latham. State law has long separated pet-owner and pet when it comes to restaurant dining. According to the state's Division of Environmental Health, that's not because of health reasons. It's just the way the state has been doing it for years. But last year the agency began hearing from people who wanted to do away with the rule. And so after some review the division decided to leave it up to restaurants owners to decide whether to welcome dogs and cats to their outdoor premises. Latham says Mac's patio will be a pet-friendly place and he's confident the animals will behave themselves. "You never know what a dog is going to do, but for the most part people who do bring their dogs with them everywhere, they're well-tempered and, for the most part, they're never going to snap at anyone," says Latham. As for other unappetizing occurrences, Latham isn't too worried about that either. Restaurants can open their outdoor dining areas to cats and dogs that are on leashes beginning Wednesday.