Thursday, 25 November 2010

Give us freedom to roam

Back in the day, I used to be able to take my well-behaved dog into many shops and pubs in the city centre. He loved being involved in my day-to-day life and he was brilliantly socialised because of all the people he met in different situations. Then more and more businesses started shutting dogs out, often citing fictitious health and safety rules as the reason. There are still some excellent businesses that allow dogs on the premises, but in the vast majority of places dogs just aren’t welcome.  

I hate leaving my dogs at home every time I want to go somewhere that isn’t a specific ‘dog walk’. When I worked full time in an office I had to leave them at home while I went to work, when I went shopping and for any social occasion that took me out of the house. For anyone that wants to enjoy time with their dog, that balance is clearly wrong. So I’m really glad to see a groundswell of opinion asking for dogs to be welcomed in the workplace.

Notably, Lily’s Kitchen, which has opened a pop-up doggy diner in London until 23 December, is campaigning for dogs and their owners to be made welcome in UK shops. Customers at the diner have been signing the Freedom to Roam petition, and now it’s available online for those of us who live too far away to get to the diner. Lily’s Kitchen cites some interesting facts:
·         In Britain, dogs are generally far less welcome than they are in other nations, such as France or Italy. They’re increasingly banned from pubs, restaurants, and even some parks and beaches.
·         Despite what we’re often told by business owners, the Health and Safety Executive has not produced any guidance relating to dogs in the workplace as health and safety law does not specifically prohibit them.
·         Leaving a dog at home, in the car or tied up outside the business premises is not ideal – if they’re left home alone they get lonely and can develop behavioural issues; left in the car, they can quickly overheat and die; and left outside they can become targets for thieves.  

For me, another key factor to consider is how much extra business the UK’s dog owners would bring if their furry friends were made welcome on the premises. Especially in a challenging economy where shops are struggling to compete with online retail, it can’t be wise to alienate such a huge chunk of the consumer population.

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