Amid the flurry of bills passed by the Texas Legislature and signed, or waiting to be signed, by the governor is one that may affect your dinner plans with your beloved fur-babies.

Last week, Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 476, a bill that prohibits cities from passing ordinances that restrict restaurants from allowing pet owners to bring their pooches with them to outdoor eating areas, like patios and outdoor cafes.

The bill, which goes into effect September 1, requires dogs to be on leashes, be well controlled and well-behaved. (Fido can’t sit on the table, chairs or countertops and can’t go into the kitchen.)

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Restaurants must post a sign in a visible location stating that dogs are allowed, customers and dogs must access the patio directly from the exterior of the establishment, and dogs would not be allowed inside at all to prevent possible food contamination.

State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) authored the bill.

“On a nice day, there’s not much that beats finding an outdoor patio and enjoying a meal with friends or family,” said Hancock. “This bill simply leaves it to restaurants to decide if they want to welcome dogs in outdoor areas and gets excessive government regulation out of the way.”

The number of dog-friendly eateries across the state, and here in East Texas, has been steadily rising. Hancock’s bill doesn’t require restaurants to require dogs, but allows each one to make that decision for itself.

Hancock said his bill was simply a response to cities that have begun passing ordinances that limit restaurant owners’ ability to decide for themselves.

So now when you schedule a family night out, you can take the whole family.