Walk into most cafés, restaurants or pubs in France and you’ll usually spot a pooch stretched out across the floor, waiting patiently for their owner. It’s a similar scene across most countries in mainland Europe but here in the UK, it’s a different story where ‘no dogs allowed’ signs stop our four-legged friends at every turn.
Chris Packham, wildlife presenter and owner of two poodles, recently voiced his frustration at ‘dog-ist Britain’ – an annoyance shared by many dog lovers.
Speaking to Yours recently he said: “My dogs are my greatest companions and I want them with me. In the UK, many dogs die in cars in the summer every year, invariably because they’re not welcome in the Post Office or café. When I go to France, I take them everywhere with me and no one cares. I’d like to see Britain loosen up.”
However, it seems the UK is determined to go in the other direction as local councils impose more restrictions on pooches. Dogs have been banned at more than 72 parks in part of Nottinghamshire, and the council is thinking of extending this across all open spaces in the city.Yorkshire East Riding has 341 orders which ban or restrict dogs in the area.
In Manchester, dogs are still not allowed on the Metrolink, while many coastal areas, including St Ives, have some beach bans in place. Breaching these restrictions often results in a fine, even if the dog is well behaved.
As for privately owned businesses, like cafés, many now shut their doors to doggies, except assistance dogs. A survey from the Kennel Club found two-in-five dog owners felt increasingly unwelcome in public places.
The only legislation is that business owners must ensure domestic animals such as dogs can’t access places where food is prepared, handled or stored. There are no laws about dogs in places where food is served; it’s down to the business owner to decide, although they must accept assistance dogs wearing an identifying jacket.
The most common objections to dogs in public places are obviously that dogs might foul, are unhygienic or could intimidate other people. But some pet lovers argue quite a lot of humans are unhygienic and intimidating, but they’re still allowed to go where they please! As Chris Packham told us: “When it comes to hygiene, you’re far more likely to catch something dangerous from another human, because it would be a human disease, not that of a completely different species. If you ask me whether I’d rather sit in a café with animals or on an overcrowded bus with people coughing and sneezing, I know what I’d pick.”
Undoubtedly there are dogs that are too unruly for public spaces but perhaps we should take the stance of our continental cousins to implement a dog policy of innocent until proven guilty. This would mean business owners and councils could use their discretion to ban problem dogs while well-behaved pooches would be more openly welcomed into society.