Pretty soon, New Yorkers may be sharing their crowded sidewalks with "urban canine good citizens" -- the newest title for city pups that can handle the concrete jungle with composure.
Some 500 dogs have earned the status since the American Kennel Club created the designation in April. The goal is to help dog owners train their animals to handle hectic and unpredictable city life with poise. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
Canine lovers across the country have advocated for more public access for their pooches, especially in restaurants. California, Florida and Maryland have all passed legislation in the past decade that allows dogs to accompany their owners on restaurant patios. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reviewing a bill that would allow owners to bring their dogs to participating restaurants with outside seating.
The governor should sign the legislation because dogs can learn behavior needed to avoid contaminating a dining area, and NYC can also reap economic benefits.
For your little Max to become a certified urban canine, the AKC test requires that dogs be able to sit still outside for three minutes while owners browse in a shop. The dog has to ignore food, loud noises and other sidewalk distractions, and be able to enter and exit buildings and transportation with no leash pulling. I have friends who wouldn't pass that test.
Even without urban canine good citizens, the American Pet Product Association expects Americans to spend more than $60.5 billion on and with their pets this year. With about 600,000 dogs in New York City, according to the city's Economic Development Corp., this bill could help owners who are reluctant to leave Fido home alone. Everyone knows someone who loves a dog almost as much as someone in his or her family. I'm looking at you, Mom.
As it's called in other states, a "dining with dogs" law should be implemented in New York State. Also, dog owners in major cities like New York should make the effort to train their pets to deserve that freedom. The AKC exam is not necessary for every dog, but proper training is.
A dog is not truly man's best friend until he can accompany him for some fine Manhattan cuisine.
Christopher Leelum, a student at Stony Brook University, is an intern with amNewYork.