We’re all hearing the words ‘pet friendly’ more often and that’s a great thing humans. When I hear those words, I know that I’m going to go on an adventure with my humans. But what does it really mean, or more to the point, what should it mean?
There is a big difference between ‘pets allowed’ and ‘pet friendly’ and yet, people don’t seem to realise that. The good news is that pets are ‘allowed’ in more and more restaurants, shops, and other places in Yucatan. This is a wonderful thing for dogs and their humans, but as ambassador for all things pet friendly in my beautiful state of Yucatan, I’m going to be honest. I demand more. So, settle down so you can read my pet friendly manifesto and become part of my pet friendly army.
Pet friendly is a philosophy, not just a policy. If businesses want to be pet friendly, they need to think about the pets that they are inviting onto their premises and also about how the people who work for them feel about being pet friendly. I had a terribly embarrassing situation with my humans that I’ll tell you about. A very well-known hacienda restaurant just outside of Merida had confirmed, via Messenger, that they were pet friendly and were looking forward to seeing us. The people who worked there didn’t like the look of me, so my very hungry humans and I were turned away after traveling all the way there for our meal. It doesn’t matter what your policy is, if your staff and colleagues don’t support it. So, that’s the first important thing to consider.
Even more important is making everyone feel comfortable and safe. I’m talking humans and dogs here. Not all humans like dogs. Some humans are scared of us. It’s essential to make sure that their feelings are protected too. So, especially in places like restaurants, it’s important to be able to provide humans with dogs a location that allows people – and other people with dogs – to pass, so that no one feels threatened.
In some places, it might be helpful to have a ‘one dog at a time only’ policy. This can really help in case two dogs arrive and don’t like each other. That kind of situation is unpleasant for everyone, especially the dogs, and no matter how lovely a dog is, that doesn’t mean he will always love everyone. The best pet friendly establishments, in my opinion, as a dog, have a clear set of rules and guidelines that they have developed with advice from animal professionals, and not just a sign that says ‘pet friendly’.
Frankly, some humans are not very good judges of their dogs’ characters. The number of times I’ve met a dog that has tried to bite me on the nose and the humans say, ‘he’s never done that before,’ I could count on all my toes.
Now humans, I want us to look at the big picture. Having a pet friendly restaurant, hotel, business, or service is wonderful, but if the majority of dogs living in the city have no one to love them, is that city pet friendly? As a dog, I don’t think it is and I think it might be a good time for us all to think about what the term ‘pet friendly’ really means.
Let me tell you what a pet friendly city would look like to me. First, there needs to be a plan to deal with homeless dogs and cats in a humane and effective manner. We all know that the way to achieve this is by reducing the population of dogs and cats and by educating people about responsible pet ownership. Then, we need to look at what happens to dogs that have no home. Should they be locked up in a dog ‘warehouse,’ where they may live for years? Should they be shipped off to foreign countries where some people believe they’ll be better off even though those countries are already struggling with their own homeless pet problem? These are important questions to think about. Are these truly pet friendly strategies.
What about access to veterinary care? Many people abandon dogs because they can’t afford to care for them when they are sick. Some humans would say that they shouldn’t have a dog, but humans’ circumstances can change overnight. Someone can die or become very sick in the family. There can be a terrible accident. Jobs can be lost. Any human who once cared for their dog well may find themselves in a situation where they may no longer be able to afford a veterinary bill. And what about elderly people, whose only companion may be a dog or cat? So, is subsidised veterinary care for pet owners in financial hardship one way to help? I think it is, especially if it can keep a dog or cat in a home where they are loved.
Sterilisation is a really important thing when we’re talking about pet overpopulation and health, especially when deadly diseases can be transmitted from one dog or cat to another through sexual activity. Would a pet friendly city offer these services for free or at a low cost for all pet owners? Studies show, categorically, that taking all factors into account, sterilised dogs live longer lives.
Another important thing for a pet friendly city to think about is safe, well managed, areas where pet owners can safely exercise their dogs without interfering in other activities. I mean, c’mon humans. There are facilities available for so many activities that humans enjoy and that help them keep healthy. Dog walking is one of those activities, so there should be appropriate places for them too. I’m not talking about dingy little ‘dog parks,’ but proper exercise facilities with equipment and access to qualified and expert trainers. Oh, and proper bins for disposing of our poop. We need those everywhere!
Speaking of trainers – did you know that anyone can start a Facebook page and call themselves a ‘dog whisperer’? Would a pet friendly city assess and license trainers to make sure that they are legitimate and not using dangerous or abusive methods? And how about ‘rescuers’? Should they be checked out to make sure they aren’t doing more harm than good? We all know that there are some very kind humans who really want to help dogs and cats, but they aren’t able to take care of them and it ends up a terrible situation for the animals and the humans involved.
Finally, I really need to say this humans. Dog breeders are a huge problem . You only have to look online to see thousands of pure breed puppies available to be delivered. That is no way to breed or sell puppies and definitely not a way to buy one. Shouldn’t a pet friendly city be requiring licensing from breeders and ensuring that they are meeting a high standard of care for the health, behaviour, and welfare of the puppies they are putting into your homes and communities?
I could write my own doggy manifesto about this humans, but I won’t. I’ll just leave you with this. As a dog, a pet friendly city would be a place where every pet had a loving home. I want to hear your views on how to make your city more pet friendly.