For years, restaurant patrons have taken their leftovers from dinner home in “doggy bags.”

Under a new Texas law, cities won’t be able to keep pet owners from taking their doggies with them to dinner.

A law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott this week protects restaurants that want to allow patrons to be accompanied by their canine friends in an outdoor dining area.

Though Senate Bill 476, written by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, does not allow the dog to enter the interior of the establishment at any point, it allows a restaurant to permit a customer to have a dog in an outdoor dining area, while maintaining reasonable health and safety regulations.

Texas law generally prohibits live animals inside restaurants where food could be tainted. However, across the state — and at several Longview-area locations — restaurants already have been choosing to allow diners to bring their well-behaved and well-controlled dogs with them into either outdoor patio or sidewalk dining areas.

But in Hancock’s statement of intent with his bill, he said some cities had enacted onerous restrictions on the establishments, “including dog variance applications, periodic fees, extra inspections and over-the-top regulations.”

Galveston officials passed an ordinance earlier this year that required dogs to have rabies tags and restaurants to keep outdoor areas free of dog hair and other debris, the Galveston Daily News reported.

In East Texas, however, several jurisdictions, including Longview, Gladewater and Gilmer, have no city ordinances that regulate or ban dogs in outdoor seating areas, with Longview leaving it to the discretion of the restaurants, city officials reported.

Some Longview restaurants, including Nanny Goat’s Cafe and Copeland’s of New Orleans, have allowed dogs in outdoor areas for years.

Jamie Olivas, shift leader at Nanny Goat’s on Judson Road in Longview, said dogs have been allowed on the sidewalk in front for at least the five years she has worked at the convenience store restaurant.

“They are always on leashes whenever they come,” she said, adding that no one has complained. Nanny Goat’s has six outdoor tables that each can seat four people.

Copeland’s of New Orleans on Fourth Street has allowed dogs since the restaurant opened in September 2014, Service Manager Christana Anderson said. She said the patio seats up to 32 patrons.

“We don’t mind at all,” Anderson said. Though she said few people have brought dogs to Copeland’s, she said patrons brought four great Danes one day.

“We will make sure that they (the dogs) have water, especially if it is hot out there,” Anderson said.

By contrast, Papacita’s Mexican Restaurant on Loop 281 sees patrons arriving with dogs three times a week, Day Manager Patrick McCullin said. He said Papacita’s has allowed dogs in patio seating for at least a year.

Papacita’s management decided to allow dogs in the first place as an “added benefit” to customers and to accommodate travelers who have their dogs with them, General Manager Danny Sullivan said. He said the patio has 11 tables that can seat 60 people.

Sullivan said Papacita’s has never posted a sign indicating dogs are allowed.

But one of the conditions of the law that takes effect Sept. 1 is that the establishment posts a sign in a conspicuous location stating that dogs are permitted.

While the law does not require restaurants to permit dogs in outdoor dining areas, other requirements it carries are that the customer and dog access the area directly from the exterior of the establishment; the dog does not enter the interior of the establishment; the customer keeps the dog on a leash and controls the dog; the customer does not allow the dog on a seat, table, countertop or similar surface; and the establishment does not prepare food in the area or permit open food other than food that is being served to a customer.

The law was news to Johnny Horne, who opened Cajun Tex this past Saturday on Renaissance Drive in Hallsville. However, he said he planned to allow dogs, anyway, on the patio as long as they are friendly and restrained on a leash.

Nanny Goat’s patron Carol Pope, who dined outside with three relatives Tuesday, said she does not recall taking her toy poodle, Sadi, to the convenience store eatery but has done so at other restaurants on weekends.

“I love the idea,” Pope said. “I’m a dog-friendly person, and I have an older son who lives in New York (City).

“I think it is nice for restaurants to give you that option, especially when it is a patio that is covered,” she said.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.