First Cars, Now Dogs

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Tauranga’s Bayfair Shopping Centre has already made a name for itself well beyond the Bay of Plenty. Since 2007, the centre has become a vanguard of sustainability, accessibility and social responsibility through initiatives ranging from 100% recycling of food court waste to supporting all Customer Service Desk staff through training in New Zealand sign language, our third official language.

Now the centre has turned its attention to our four-legged friends. Aware of a number of pooches left tied to benches, posts and other immobile points – and even stationed in hot cars – while their owners visit the centre, the management team made a move thus far unprecedented in New Zealand by installing dog parking, a shaded spot with fresh water where visitors can tie up their pooches while they are in-centre.

Two dogs can be tied up on either side of each slatted, shaded station, where mats are laid down and the water is changed regularly. The dog parking facility’s adjacency to a parking building, plus a ‘roof’ on each station, means the dogs are shaded throughout the day and will be comfortable even during summer’s peak.

Bayfair’s centre manager Steve Ellingford says the dog parking facility was designed and constructed based on observations of historical dog owner behaviour by centre staff and feedback from visitors and customers. “We are close to our customers and take an interest in how they use the centre – whether they arrive by car or public transport, by bike or on foot. A lot of people will walk or drive to the centre with their dogs and want somewhere comfortable to leave them, so we created this dedicated space that provides everything a dog needs for its comfort while its owner is occupied inside.”

Mr Ellingford acknowledges the safety concerns raised by a handful of people. “Some have asked about dog theft, which does occasionally happen in New Zealand. We do have good security systems at the centre but we know this parking system may not be suitable for all dogs or their owners, and we encourage people to do what works best for them and their much-loved dogs. The purpose of the dog parking facility is to provide a better, more comfortable option for our four-legged friends who would otherwise be tied to posts, signs and benches around the centre. And if we manage to keep dogs out of cars on hot summer days, we will be very happy.”

There have been many reported incidents involving dogs being left in hot cars at shopping centres and having to be rescued by centre security or passersby. As animal welfare organizations such as the Humane Society warn, leaving pets in locked cars is never safe, but in warm and hot temperatures it can be deadly. High temperatures can cause irreparable organ damage and death. This past summer, after the death of a border collie in its owner’s car in Nelson on Boxing Day, the SPCA and SAFE issued strong warnings about the danger of leaving a dog in a car even for a very short time.

For the safety and well-being of all visitors to Bayfair – canine and human – the centre encourages people to ensure their dogs are registered, microchipped, desexed,  and up-to-date with vet checks, all vaccinations and flea and worming treatments before they are left at the dog parking facility.