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Opening Day Fiasco: Dog Owners Complain About Breed Ban at Mutt’s Cantina

Photo of the breed restriction sign posted on Mutt's dog park (photo by DallasDogLife.com)
Photo of the breed restriction sign posted on Mutt’s dog park (photo by DallasDogLife.com)

Before Mutt’s Canine Cantina opened this Wednesday, dog owners were panting with excitement. Owners Josh Sepkowitz and Kyle Noonan of Bowl & Barrel are both dog lovers who wanted an open-air restaurant where the people could bring their best four-legged friends. Naturally, since Dallas doesn’t have a restaurant with a dog park attached it, people pounced on the opening like a puppy who likes to chew shoes. Then they saw the signs.

All leashed dogs were – and still are – allowed on the patio, but certain breeds were restricted from the dog park, which is regulated by attendants. On the sign posted outside of the dog park, the fourth rules states: “The Dog Park does not allow the following breeds to enter: Chow, Presa Canario, Doberman, Malamute, Husky, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Pit Bull or Shar-Pei.”

Incensed, dog owners who saw the sign inundated Mutt’s Canine Cantina’s Facebook page with comments. One woman wrote:

“Sad to find out my pittie isn’t welcome. We wouldn’t have participated in the park (I don’t trust other people’s dogs) but we would have been good paying customers. Thinly veiled breed specific restrictions are bad business.”

As word spread and customers got angrier, Noonan and Sepkowitz worked quickly to put out the fire. Noonan says the breed restrictions were implemented by the insurance company they use. “Because we are a very unique concept, the insurance company who we work with – in order to get a policy in place that makes sense – wanted to make sure that breed restrictions were similar to the apartment building in our neighborhood.” The insurance company decided on a policy that it thought was market standard. After seeing their Facebook page flooded with angry pet owners, the owners worked with the insurance company and decided to lift the breed restrictions.

Now, all dogs are allowed off-the-leash inside the park, except for pitbulls, who must remain leashed if they want to be inside the dog park. Even mixed pitbulls have to follow this rule. (But all dogs are welcome on the patio, leashed.)

But Noonan, who owns a 130-lb. Great Pyrenees, says, “We’re here for the consumer and we want to respond to the consumer. At the same time, we want to make sure that we protect the safety of the dogs and the people in the park.”

So, did he know he’d get that kind of reaction from dog lovers whose pets weren’t allowed in a not-so-all-dog-friendly park? “No, we didn’t. To be frank, those are very common dog restrictions in apartments. It wasn’t an arbitrary selection”

Noonan won’t say which insurance company they use for Mutt’s, but he does reiterate that it wasn’t his choice. “If I didn’t have to do it, I wouldn’t. Obviously, it would make my life easier and make it one less thing to manage. But at the end of the day, as a business owner you have to gear your business practices toward the general public. We want to carry insurance and we want to be insured. And to do that, you have to comply.”

The dog park is $9.95 for unlimited monthly membership or $4.95 for the day pass.

[Update 11:34 a.m. - Just saw on CultureMap that Teresa Gubbins says there is a lack of  water at Mutt's.]