Northern Ireland

It's a dog's life in the cafe business

Two dogs at a cafe table
Image caption Two for tea: Dogs are welcome at the Paws 4 Tea cafe

How often have you seen a sign outside a cafe saying: "No dogs except guide dogs."

You would be forgiven for thinking that there was a law against taking your pet pooch in with you - but, in actual fact, there isn't.

And for one couple in Dundrum on the County Down coast, it's the perfect idea for a new business.

They have just opened a dog-friendly cafe with the catchy title, Paws 4 Tea.

Janet Stafford and her husband decided they wanted to open the dog-friendly business after they lost their jobs.

"People kept saying, 'Oh you won't be allowed. The health people won't allow it'."

Proprietor's decision

She said she asked the local council about the rules and regulations concerning dogs on her premises.

"They said there was no law in the country which says you can't bring a dog onto the premises. It is entirely up to the proprietor of the establishment as to whether a dog is allowed in or not," she said.

"I was so relieved. Of course, they are not allowed in the kitchen, which is understandable."

So what do the customers think of the cafe?

Malcolm Tuff comes regularly to walk his dog along the coast at Dundrum.

"I think it's of great benefit to the community. It brings a lot of people together and it's absolutely fantastic for dog owners because there are stacks of places that won't let you have the dogs in," he said.

'Outside toilets'

Mr Tuff said dog owners did not now have to worry about carrying water or poop bags.

"It's great, they have outside toilets for the dogs as well," he said.

Fellow customer and dog owner Billy Shaw is now a regular in the cafe too.

He said it was "rather refreshing" to see the sign which said dogs were allowed in the cafe.

"A dog in a cafe is no real problem as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Janet believes businesses are losing revenue by keeping dogs out.

"I think it's a disgrace. What harm are they going to do. You see them here, they are all kept on leads," she said.

"They are very well behaved when they do come in, there's never any bother."

She said there had never been a problem with having to clean up after canine customers.

"They have never done anything. Normally, they have had a walk before they come here."

She laughed as she agreed that she believed it was "a good thing" if her food was described as a "dog's dinner".