Imaging my surprise when Sophie Sue and I arrived for brunch at our favorite Coconut Grove restaurant and we were turned away. It seems that new legislation currently makes her presence at an outdoor eatery unwelcome — illegal, in fact. (I could hear the Peanut’s cartoon music playing in the background: No dogs allowed … poor Snoopy!)

Poor Sophie Sue! The helpful Maitress'd offered to tie her up to a storefront grate. What!? No more than I would tie up my eight-year-old son were he deemed unwelcome! I scooped her up and proclaimed: If my dog can’t sit with me why should I eat here?

Sophie’s cute-factor (not to mention my indignation) drew attention to our plight from those seated at nearby tables. Thank Jeb Bush, one diner shouted out. His legislation requires individual municipalities to specifically allow restaurants to individually apply for permits if they carry $1 million in dog-bite insurance.

Three new hurdles in the system! And the law has the audacity to call itself the Doggie Dining law, as if it makes way for anything but the discontinuation of doggie dining. Unbelievable! Was it really his intention that dogs be thus excluded? Or was it yet another poorly thought out gaffe of the kind politicians often make at the end of their administrations?

My understanding (from my online research of the matter after our summary discharge from the restaurant) is that this law was enacted two days after Jeb's beloved lab died … in his memory. For the love of God, acquire some brain cells and look beyond the tip of your nose when you put pen to paper, Jeb.

Until now, I haven’t been a Jeb-basher. Though I`ve often disagreed with his policies, especially with regard to the environment, I've never had major complaints to lodge. This one, however, is a doozy.

While the rest of the country moves in one direction, making way for dogs to play a larger role in our cultural progress and family lives, the state of Florida takes three steps backwards in its attempt to regulate the previously unregulated practice of full-family dining. Nothing less than the dog-friendly lifestyle we all cherish is at risk here. So much for family values!

And why should dogs be so targeted? It’s not as if disease is the real issue, here. While the ignorant may perceive dogs as dirty, you’re far more likely to catch something from the coughing toddler at the next table than from any dog that inadvertently licks your hand or French kisses you in his excitement. Please!

If the real problem here is dog bites, make individual owners responsible for their charges, not the rest of society at large. Those who own friendly, well-socialized dogs should not have to continually pay for the negligence of others. Why should a restaurant have to carry dog bite insurance when an owner should rightfully shoulder that liability?

If a Doggie Dining law was enacted to make restaurateurs happy, as I suspect, why could it not have specifically supported a restaurant’s right to exclude pets? (as was already the case). I’d surely have no quarrel with that legislation. After all, I support their right to run their establishment in any way they see fit.

As we made our way out of the restaurant’s sidewalk café, the hostess gave me a business card and suggested I email the owner. A petition is currently being drafted to bring the municipality of Coconut Grove back to the dogs. Required? A vote by the commission, the establishment of a permitting process and a restaurant’s individual petition with all its attendant proof of insurance. Knowing Miami, this’ll take a couple of years. In the meantime, Sophie and I will eat our pancakes at home, thank you.

Image: No Dogs Allowed by red_rooster82