SINCE Avril Hurley set up ‘Dog Friendly Cork’, a service page on Facebook that lists pet-friendly businesses, she’s been inundated with queries, many from British people reluctant to bring their pets to Ireland.
“A lot of messages I get are from people in the UK, saying that they would love to bring their dogs to Ireland, but choose not to because we are not a pet-friendly country,” Avril says.
A web search shows there are no more than two or three pet-friendly hotels and B&Bs per county in Ireland. Such restricted choice makes it too easy for UK travellers to head to the Continent. “In France, people bring their dogs everywhere — on the Metro, into shops and cafés. It’s part of the culture,” Avril says.
Business owners here are wary of opening their property up to other people’s pets. But many B&Bs are more pet-friendly than the internet suggests.
Dawn Keane runs Marina Lodge, a guesthouse with self-catering apartments, overlooking Dingle Bay. She began accepting dogs two years ago, following a guest request. Pets are housed in a dedicated, pet-friendly apartment on the ground floor of the complex. The apartment has a tiled floor, sleeps four, and is on a quiet back-lane. It’s a 20-second walk to the breakwater, with its new walkway, the perfect place to take the dogs out for a breath of fresh Atlantic air.
“We are not really broadcasting ourselves as pet-friendly, but the number of people with pets coming is increasing, probably through word-of-mouth. We have a dog or two every week. People who bring their pets want them with them, and they come back again and again because of that,” Dawn says.
A dog lover, Dawn has had no bad experiences with pets, though she worries about a ‘yappy’ or aggressive dog that would disturb guests.
Avril’s ‘Dog Friendly Cork’ Facebook page also lists bars, shops, cafés and restaurants that allow pets on the premises, and pet-friendly transport options (Irish Rail is pet-friendly; Bus Eireann is not). She says the reaction to the page has been “amazing — it’s restored my faith in humanity.” Proud owner of Miley and Gabby, her two Shih Tzus, Avril was terrified of dogs for the first 18 years of her life.
When Miley arrived, he immediately took to Avril’s mum, who subsequently died of ovarian cancer in July 2011.
“He became my Mam’s baby. He used to lay in the bed with her. He adored her. She was a fantastic lady, she thought me what it is to love a dog. Miley was depressed for weeks after she died. But when any of us were upset, he would be straight up to us, licking our faces trying to comfort us. Some dogs are so in tune with a family,” Avril says.
“People forget all the good that dogs do in society — sniffer dogs, search dogs, even programmes that bring dogs into nursing homes to visit the elderly. But society still wants to shut them in the back garden. I hope the ‘Dog Friendly Cork’ movement will change things for the better,” she says.
Through the Facebook page, Avril aims to find dog-friendly facilities, services and events at which dogs are welcome.
“I read a saying lately that really struck a chord with me: ‘a dog may only be a part of your life, but you are their whole life.’ It’s entirely true of my dogs. They depend on me for absolutely everything they do. If I don’t take them out, they don’t go out, and their expected lifespan is a mere fraction of mine. I don’t want them to have to spend the majority of their lives trapped within the confines of our home, with the exception of their daily walk,” she says.
The Facebook page also lists dog-friendly social events, such as the Dog Walking Club, and a campaign for a dedicated dog park in Cork.
There are five dog parks in Dublin but none in Cork, where 30,000 people pay an annual dog licence fee that generated €620,000 in revenue in 2012.
“Even though Dublin had over twice the human population of Cork in 2012, Dublin still had 2,178 fewer dog licences issued than Cork — yet it had five dog parks, whilst Cork had, and still has, none,” Avril says.
Fionnbarra’s pub, on Douglas St in Cork City centre, welcomes customers’ pets. In a spacious outdoor smoking area, to the rear, the bar provides hot water bottles and blankets for dog owners who want to hang out with their pooch.
The service extends to dog bowls and a hearty welcome for canine customers.
Susie Jones loves the social aspect of ‘Dog Friendly Cork’, because leaving her five-year-old terrier Bennie at home can be harrowing.
“When I drive off to work in the morning, I have Bennie looking out the window at me. The guilt of leaving him is awful. He’s my best friend and I just want to bring him out and about with me. It’s normal in other countries, so why not here?” Susie says.
Daragh Quin, from Model Farm Road in Cork, tries to incorporate her Jack Russell, Andy, into her social life as much as possible, so that he’s not left home alone.
“I plan my day around him. If I could bring him to work, I would. The Facebook page is a great resource for dog owners and it’s handy, because it specialises in Cork,” she says. Lyn O’Farrell from Carrigaline says dogs are like children. She brings her husky Willow everywhere.
“I brought her everywhere from day one, so she is really well socialised now and that makes it easy. You become more aware of how many places don’t allow dogs in, so it’s great to know the places that do,” she says.
Back on the Dingle Peninsula, Clodagh Edwards, director of YNA Dingle Cottages, has just launched a new web service, offering high-end, pet-friendly accommodation in a selection of spectacular sites across West Kerry.
“Who wants to leave their best friend at home? Dogs need a holiday, too. People love to bring their pets on holiday. I would say a third of our guests bring their dogs. We do keep a few holiday homes pet-free, in case of guests with pet allergies.
“We have some rules. We ask that dogs do not go into the bedrooms and that owners clean up excess hair,” Clodagh says.
See ‘Dog Friendly Cork’ on Facebook for a full list of pet friendly information.