Resident cats and dogs of shops and cafés serve as great mascots for a business and are often major drawcards for getting people in the doors. The Register set out to meet some four-legged friends in retail and find out about the new rules that have come in to force around keeping pets in food premises.
Most people find a cat curled up on the mantelpiece of a bookstore, or a shop that promises free dog hugs, endearing. Yet some don’t. Some can get really rather upset.
Tauranga’s record store Vinyl Destination found itself the lucky recipient of huge publicity in May thanks to its lucky charm, Callaway the deaf cat.
Someone made a formal complaint to the Tauranga City Council about Callaway and food safety standards. Vinyl Destination sells coffee, but not food.
The manager put up a Facebook post saying there’s a free coffee if you apologise to Callaway, and the publicity snowballed from there.
So what are the new rules – what’s allowed?
The new Food Act, which came in to force in March, is designed to modernise and strengthen food safety in New Zealand, says an Ministry for Primary Industries spokesperson.
“It takes a risk based approach to food safety, and gives businesses more flexibility over how they manage these risks.”
Under the new Act, there are no rules against having pet animals in food premises, as long as they do not affect the safety of the food.
Business owners must show they are managing the risks, for example keeping pets out of the area where food is made or handled, and making sure food stored in public areas is covered or protected, according to the MPI.
Enough of the rules stuff.
Meet Mulberry. This big handsome ginger-haired boy was a stray who chanced upon the Paper Mulberry café in Otane about nine years ago, says café owner Anna White.
“He arrived from a paddock and never left. He is here every morning and we give him breakfast and dinner,” she says.
Needless to say, Mulberry is popular with the locals, who make special trips just to see him. Apparently he soaks up all the attention.
White wasn’t aware of the changes to the Food Act but she had been told in the past that it was good to have a cat around for pest control.
A blackboard with the words ‘Free dog hugs here’ sits outside Frolic, a shop in Napier that sells selected and restored furniture, clothes and homeware.
Tiger, a staffy cross, and Victor, a jack russell crossed with a bichon frise, are the givers of the hugs.
“The promise of dog hugs is a great drawcard to get people in to the shop. Tourists who are missing their dogs back home often pop in.”
Tiger and Victor sit on their beds behind the shop counter and generally get a feeling as to whether people are dog lovers or not.
Wulf says the dogs are generally popular, and she might get one or two people a year who are negative about them.
“Tiger got kicked in the head the other day by a guy. About ten minutes later a big burly Australian guy with tattoos came in and said he was there for the dog hugs! Tiger had the trust instilled back in him,” she says.
New Zealand’s very own cat café – The Cat Lounge – on Auckland’s North Shore had to be careful with its food safety standard when it set up, says co-owner Mike Jones.
The car area is separate from the kitchen and servery. The Ministry of Primary Industry were stoked when we designed it because we put in double doors between the two areas,” says Mike.
“People can grab a coffee and food and sit with the cats and there are tables and chairs and plenty of space,” he says. “There are a small percentage of people who have given us negative feedback, not many.”