When I visited Mutts Canine Cantina in Uptown for their grand opening on Wednesday, June 19, my first impression was that it seemed like a fun idea, but just had a few kinks to work out. I had no idea that a simple post on Facebook was going to create so much controversy. But more on that later.
For those who haven’t been, I’ll explain the concept: Mutts is an outdoor bar and private dog park in the same location. To use the dog park, you must purchase a one-day pass ($5) or a monthly pass ($10) per dog. Bar patrons can sit on the patio for free, along with their canine companions, who must be on a leash.
At the Grand Opening, they had attendees to describe the process to you and to provide monthly membership applications if you wanted to purchase that option. Chewy (my Pekingese) and I went into the small dog park to check it out.
There are two separate dog parks, one for small (under 30 pounds) and one for larger dogs. They each share a common entrance, with owners coming into the same small area to enter the parks. This is a tricky area; the reason for the separate parks is to keep dogs of the same size grouped together so the small dogs are not trampled by large dogs. In that small area, all the dogs and their humans that are entering and leaving the park are together.
Both parks are spacious and have lots of trees. And owners who wish to stay with their dogs can bring their drinks inside. There is not much seating, and I’m guessing that’s because you have the option to leave your dogs in the park with an attendant and go to the bar for a drink. (However, there were no attendants in the small dog park when I was in there. Only one person was inside the small come-and-go area. A beagle puppy howled for 30 minutes while the owner was in the bar.)
Be aware that there is no water source in the parks. Owners who would like fresh water for their dogs have no way to refill the water bowls, unless they bring in their own water bottles. In the Texas summer, a dog playing in a park can get overheated quickly, and a dog that goes into distress needs to have water poured over them quickly in order to cool his body temperature. With absent owners and attendants, the dogs that play themselves into heat exhaustion are at risk.
In the patio area, it’s pretty much the same as any other dog-friendly patio. There are bowls of water available, and dogs are allowed on-leash. Their food menu has burgers and hot dogs, but no vegetarian patties. However, one of the staff members stated that they had lots of requests for more vegetarian options, so he anticipated a menu update coming soon.
The Breed Ban Controversy
While sitting in the patio area with some friends and their dog, I learned that someone was not there because her dog was prohibited from entering the park. I took a photo of the policy and all the breeds that were restricted and posted it to the Dallas Dog Life Facebook page.
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.
Then my phone died. This happens to me frequently. I put it in my car to charge.
My friends and I stayed on the patio and discussed the policy with some other patrons, and I asked our waiter for more clarification. He said dogs of all breeds are allowed on the patio, on a leash, and there is no charge to bring your dog on the patio. After a while, I went back to retrieve my phone and update the Facebook page with the new information I had.
By the time I turned my phone back on, there were already 65 comments on the photo. And people also voiced their displeasure over the breed ban via the Mutts Canine Cantina Facebook page, which was deluged with comments from upset dog owners. The management at Mutts said it was an insurance requirement. However, the next day, their policy was changed to allow all breeds of dog into the dog park with the exception of one segment: pit bulls.
Attempts to contact Mutts Canine Cantina’s management for comment were unsuccessful.
The Bottom Line
As a pit bull parent, animal advocate, and business owner, I made the decision to only list businesses and events that are all-inclusive on Dallas Dog Life. Of course, I make exceptions for businesses and events that specialize in or target a particular segment (toy breed clothing retailer or a small dog Meetup, for example). My reason for posting the restrictions at Mutts was that so you, as a dog owner and a consumer, could make an informed decision before taking your dog (especially those on “the list”) to a business with breed restrictions.
But aside from the pit bull discrimination, there are other reasons I would not recommend this place. It’s dangerous to leave your dog alone with an untrained attendee in a dog park. (The requirements for being an attendee are only “must love dogs.”) The summer heat, dog fights, or injuries from strenuous play all require training to deal with. The lack of water sources for owners to access quickly is also a major concern. And a single small enclosed entry into two dog parks is a recipe for a dog fight, even among the “acceptable” breeds.
While it seems the management got advice on liability, I’m not sure if they consulted anyone in the dog community when planning this project. We would have seen all these issues a mile away.
In any case, it seems that Mutts is happy with their clientele, and vice versa. For pit bull owners who would like to take their well-behaved, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated dogs to a dog park/restaurant, Lee Harvey’s has a similar concept (Dog Day Sundays) and there is no charge to let your dog off leash.
It’s hard out there for a pit. 🙂
Editor’s note July 10, 2013: A reader posting an unfavorable comment towards this editorial states that there are now misting fans, water carts, water troughs, and other improvements that have been made to the park since I visited. For full disclosure, I have not returned to Mutts since my visit on their Grand Opening and do not plan to while the Breed Ban in the Dog Park is still in place; however, I wanted to point out for my readers that some safety issues may have been addressed. Thanks.