Dogs in public places: paw form or about time?

Canine pets are being welcomed into UK churches, restaurants and even cinemas

Dog with popcorn
Cinema chain Curzon is introducing ‘Dog Day Afternoons’
(Image credit: rfranca/Getty Images)

Cinema-goers across the nation are being joined by four-legged film fans, as a UK cinema chain opens its doors to dogs.

Curzon is introducing “Dog Day Afternoons” for customers who want to bring their pets to screenings, provided the dogs are well behaved and do not sit on the seats. The rules also state that owners must also clean up after their dogs if they “create a mess”, although cleaning products will be “provided”.

While most cinemas only allow guide and service dogs, the Picturehouse chain and some independent cinemas also offer pet-friendly screenings. And dogs are increasingly found at the feet of the owners in restaurants and other public spaces too.

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‘Like your little baby’

The growing acceptance of dogs in public spaces may have been spurred on in part by the pandemic, when pet ownership “surged”, said The New York Times’s London-based correspondent Derrick Bryson Taylor. But with workers now being urged to return to the office, some pets and their owners are “struggling with the transition” – and welcome the opportunity to spend more time together in their free time, at least.

A pet owner at Curzon Aldgate cinema in east London told the paper that the dog-friendly screenings were “a great idea because nowadays pets are part of the family” and are “like your little baby”.

UK churches are also becoming increasingly pet-friendly, in a bid to boost congregation numbers, Euronews reported. Canterbury, Worcester and Chichester cathedrals all allowed dogs inside their sacred walls over the summer, as part of a trial that may become permanent.

And in a recent National Churches Trust poll of 285 churches, almost two-thirds said they welcomed dogs or “hold pet services”.

Dog-friendly dining is also on the rise, although “plentiful food and a naturally scavenging animal” are hardly an “ideal mix”, said Ben McCormack in The Telegraph.

The Guardian’s restaurant critic Jay Rayner recently derided the dog-friendly policy of London restaurant The Parakeet, in Kentish Town, as “barking mad”.

“The first thing I mentioned to friends after eating there wasn’t the lovely lamb belly with courgette and anchovy or the terrific house pickles – we’ll come back to them – but the bloody dog,” he wrote. According to Rayner, the waiters also said they “hated the pro-dog policy (guide dogs, excepted).”

‘All gone mad’

Debrett’s etiquette advisor Liz Wyse considers dogs to be the “new frontline” in restaurant etiquette, The Telegraph’s McCormack reported.

“You might think your dog is a miraculous near-human,” Wyse said, “but your fellow diners are unlikely to agree, so don’t let your dog sit on your lap and put its paws on the table, and under no circumstances should you let it lick your plate.”

The Times’s Ann Treneman also has doubts about the wisdom of dining out with dogs, and wondered “if we have all gone mad”. At a recent lunch out with a friend, she recalled, it seemed that “everyone but us” had a dog with them.

Questioning when it became ���normal to eat out with your canine”, Treneman argued that “surely it’s time we got a grip”.

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 Sorcha Bradley is a writer at The Week and a regular on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. She worked at The Week magazine for a year and a half before taking up her current role with the digital team, where she mostly covers UK current affairs and politics. Before joining The Week, Sorcha worked at slow-news start-up Tortoise Media. She has also written for Sky News, The Sunday Times, the London Evening Standard and Grazia magazine, among other publications. She has a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London, where she specialised in political journalism.