Animal farm: Local restaurants warming up to pets
Pet-friendly restaurants in the city are slowly gaining in popularity amid rising demand from pet owners, but there is still a long way to go before they become a norm in a changing Shanghai.
Woof Woof, located in the West Bund area of Xuhui District, is one such restaurant. The eatery, which opened more than a year ago, is surrounded by large space of lawns.
On weekends, when the weather is pleasant, the average waiting time is one hour.
"I have visited the restaurant many times, and it is quite good to have a place to sit down and eat something together with my dog," said Zhang Xuemei, with her Teddy Bear dog.
"I often come here after walking my dog on nearby lawns as there are only a handful of restaurants in Shanghai that welcome pets," said Zhang, who lives in Huangpu District and drives 20 minutes to the restaurant.
About 70 percent of diners at the restaurant come with pets, according Yin Xiaoxiang, a waiter at Woof Woof.
"The area is suitable for walking dogs," he said. "Many people bring pets to the lawns, for camping and having a picnic when weather permits.
"Most diners with pets are those who walk their dogs here. We allow dogs into the restaurant, but we require their owners to leash them.
"In addition, we don't allow pets to touch dishware, and pets are only allowed to stay on the ground," Yin said, adding that they have also had guests bring in cats and rabbits.
"We have disinfection items on hand in case of incidents of (accidental) scratching," he noted.
About a kilometer away, the Kiwi Cafe & Bar, which opened in late 2016, is also a haven for pets, in a manner of speaking. It provides free pet food like sausages and beef jerky and also has disposable dishware for dogs to drink water.
"We don't have restrictions on pets, and customers with dogs, like golden retriever and Shiba inu, keep coming back," said a staffer surnamed Hu.
The restaurant is disinfected every day to ensure hygienic conditions, Hu said, adding that they hosted a dog party two months ago, which brought together a gaggle of 60 dogs.
At Hugo Husky House, also in Xuhui, Susan Zen made her third visit with two dogs named Grace and Lele.
She said she liked the restaurant because the owner's dog looks a lot like her own husky.
Zen keeps her dogs on leash, however.
"Some people are afraid, so whenever I enter a restaurant, I look for separate seating, away from other people," she said. "I also look for a place to hook my dog leashes."
Pet owners in the city are hoping for more pet-friendly restaurants.
"The number of pet-friendly restaurants in Shanghai is small, and I have to leave my dog in the car when dining out or take him back home before I dine out," said pet owner Yu Tingya, a Putuo District resident. "Dogs are like kids, and they will be happy if they are allowed into business venues."
Yu's Teddy Bear dog has been banned from restaurants many times. Now, she calls in advance to make sure her dog is allowed in the eatery.
"But I also understand that some people are afraid of dogs and the business of restaurants is maybe affected," she said. "My dog is highly active and enthusiastic."
"Even though Shanghai has many pets, especially dogs, there are few pet restaurants," said another pet owner Wendy Xia. "And China in general doesn't have many pet restaurants.
"Pet restaurants should provide pet food, and I like places where I can let my dog run around and play," she added.
Not everybody is happy about the idea of pet-friendly restaurants, however.
"I don't want to eat at restaurants that allow pets because I was once bitten by a dog and had to take vaccines as a result," said Xu Cheng, a middle-aged Shanghai resident. "Even if dogs are kept far away in other seating area, I don't feel comfortable when dining."
Iris Zhou, another resident, agrees: "I am always worried that the dog will run towards me when I am dining at restaurants, and I prefer a quiet environment while eating."
Restaurant operators say they are confronted with rising operation and management costs due to the pets and other situation resulting from uncivilized behavior of pet owners though both Woof Woof and Kiwi Cafe & Bar staff spoke highly of their pet-owning guests.
"Disinfectants are used out quickly because we need to clean the cafe very frequently," said the owner of Love Concept Cafe surnamed Yang.
The cafe, in Xuhui, has welcomed cats, parrots and even mini-musk swines since it opened three years ago. But dogs are now a no-no.
"Some pet owners used to allow their pets to bark and run around at the cafe, and some dogs even urinated on the ground," explained Yang, adding that she was once bitten by a canine but the owner fled with the animal.
"Some owners don't (or can't) control their pets, which hinders restaurants from opening up to pets," she noted. "It requires cooperation and understanding from pet owners."