OPINION - Fat Tony: London is far too anti-dog — I want mine with me in every shop and restaurant

A man carries his dog up an escalator at Liverpool Street Underground Station in London (PA)
A man carries his dog up an escalator at Liverpool Street Underground Station in London (PA)

I’m not being funny but… why in 2023 is London still so behind on dog policies? The latest figures show that there are more than 300,000 dogs in London in 250,000 homes. That’s a staggering nine per cent of households. Don’t tell me it’s a licensing problem because I don’t buy that. There are enough establishments, from stores to restaurants, to cafes or hotels that all let in dogs. Now, welcome them! As a long-time dog owner, I’ve seen how the world has moved forward with time. You go to New York and there are dog costume competitions every holiday, you go to Ibiza and virtually every space welcomes dogs with open arms.

I haven’t been to Selfridges in eight months. The last time I did, my cavapoo Reenie joined me. Their policy in particular is the most nonsensical. Dogs can come in. They aren’t, however, allowed to touch the floor — but you aren’t allowed to try on clothes with a dog in your hand. Explain how that works. Selfridges is one of those places you always used to be excited to go to as a kid. You had your once-a-year outing there, or to Harrods or Harvey Nics. Perhaps it was around Christmas so you could buy family members that something a little more special. Whether you go once a year or once a week, it’s an integral part of London’s heritage. Maybe they should focus less on dogs and more on shoplifters. Being followed around by security just doesn’t help.

I always find that places that pride themselves on being dog-friendly tend to be better in every single way

I always find places that pride themselves on being dog-friendly tend to be better in every way. Opening up that side of things makes the staff more hospitable, friendly. They look like they enjoy being there a little bit more. Plus who doesn’t want the odd furry friend sitting around while you tuck into your steak sandwich? The Maine restaurant is right in the middle of Mayfair and is one of London’s hotspots — they’ve been dog-friendly from day one. The Artist’s Residence in Pimlico has dog treats and a water bowl waiting for you on arrival. Meanwhile, Boots with almost every product hermetically sealed, asks you to tie your dog to a bollard outside. This year should be about going that extra mile, like one of my favourite places, Colbert, a Sloane Square café. They have a dedicated section that’s dog-friendly and even provide treats with the Colbert name on them.

Lockdown dogs have changed the landscape of canine ownership in this great city. Businesses just need to catch up. It’s clear if I’ve got to choose between Selfridges or the dog-friendly Peter Jones, I know who I’m giving my money to. When you have these kinds of issues in this day and age, are we surprised high streets are becoming less and less popular? Perhaps if everyone was made to feel completely welcome, we’d be able to bring high streets back to what they used to be. Or a better, more modern version.

Here’s my logic. Support dogs are allowed everywhere, right? They’re exempt. But aren’t dogs in some way or another all there for support? Whether it’s the incredible work of guide dogs, or police dogs, or important emotional support. I know my dog constantly calms down my anxiety and I feel that’s the case with most of us. I’ve printed off fake passes for Reenie before, borrowed one off a friend — not to take into anywhere particularly serious, but I have! People have allergies from nuts, it doesn’t stop them from shopping in Sainsbury’s, right? Soho House allows in badly behaved people every weekend, but you can’t take a well-behaved pup in there for lunch on a Tuesday.

There are two types of owners. The majority who are responsible dog owners, and those who are irresponsible. The tiny minority don’t reflect the rest of us. And yet, dogs have been making the news for all the wrong reasons lately. With the XL bully being banned soon, we continue this trend of ignoring bad owners. Don’t blame it, train it. You wouldn’t take a guard dog out to public places unless you’re a bad owner. And yet some of the softest souls I’ve met have been from the most “dangerous” breeds. It’s a myth and we need the Government and councils to look at the real issue here — owners. Plain and simple. So, to recap: all dogs are support dogs. Let them in.

Dua Lipa (AFP via Getty Images)
Dua Lipa (AFP via Getty Images)

Choose Love

Last night I had the pleasure of playing at the opening of the Choose Love store on Carnaby Street. If you’re around in the lead up to Christmas, go check it out and in the process help those in so much need. We all need to do exactly what it says and Choose Love. My track of the week: Houdini by Dua Lipa. She’s back, baby.

Fat Tony is a DJ and a best-selling author