Carl Luciano doesn’t understand why owners wouldn’t let Chloe, his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in their stores.
“I mean look at her,” he said as Chloe plopped down on the Broadway sidewalk, her small head on her paws. “I think it would be a shame if owners stopped letting dogs into their stores. I’d rather take her with me than leave her at home.”
Luciano, of Ballston Spa, was one of many shopping along Broadway Sunday with dog in tow. As downtown Saratoga becomes more dog friendly, a debate is growing about the appropriateness of dogs in public spaces.
Melanie Dallas, owner of Sloppy Kisses, and Adrianna Flax, at the Saratoga Arts Center, spearheaded the Dog Friendly Downtown campaign in October. The pair put together a list of businesses and restaurants that allow dogs inside and passed out window decals alerting shoppers to their status.
Dog Friendly Downtown officially launched last weekend with a scavenger hunt in various downtown stores and “yappy” hour at Putnam Den.
However not all were happy with the doggie takeover of downtown last weekend as evidenced by critical letters to the editor.
Not all downtown shoppers think dogs are appropriate in stores.
Sharon Caster and Barb McGraw, both from Syracuse, were shopping along Broadway Sunday afternoon. Both said they are dog lovers, but don’t think it’s appropriate to bring dogs into stores, unless they are pet stores.
“You never know what a dog will do,” Caster said.
Both said they would leave a store if a dog they felt uncomfortable with was inside.
“Even little dogs can be yippey and bite you,” McGraw said.
Downtown business owners involved with the Dog Friendly Downtown campaign say they would lose business if they didn’t allow dogs.
“The town is filled with people walking their dogs, and you want people to come in your store,” Ron Brown, owner of The Factory Store, said. “I would be constantly turning people away if I didn’t allow dogs.”
The dog-friendly debate is apparent at the Saratoga Farmers Market in High Rock Park.
While the High Rock Park farmers market doesn’t have a policy against dogs, market coordinator Suzanne Carreker-Voigt said she tries to be sensitive to those market-goers who are not friends of Fido.
The issue with whether to allow dogs or not at the market is a sensitive one, evoking passion from both sides. Carreker-Voigt said in the market’s last e-newsletter, she advised people to “leave their pooch behind” during the market’s busiest hours on Saturday mornings and received a rash of e-mails supporting dogs.
The farmers market cannot ban dogs altogether because the market is held in a city-designated dog park.
While dogs are welcome at the market, misbehaving dogs that are jumping on people, aggressive or have a tendency to lift their legs are asked to leave, and owners with multiple dogs are also discouraged.
The Saratoga Farmers Market has grown over the years and gets busy and crowded on Saturdays between 9 and 11 a.m. Carreker-Voigt said she doesn’t understand why a dog owner would want to subject their dog to the large crowd.
“I understand the debate, and it’s a whole different environment when you go on Broadway,” Carreker-Voigt said. “Americans aren’t used to having their dogs go in the store, but in other parts of the world it’s commonplace.”
Roger Goldsmith, owner of Crafters Gallery on Broadway, who allows dogs into his store, said the recent complaints in the local newspaper about dogs in Saratoga Springs won’t change his mind about his dog-friendly policy. He said responsible owners will have well-behaved dogs.
However, as a dog owner, Goldsmith said he wouldn’t bring his dog walking on Broadway, and he doesn’t think the majority of shoppers would either.
“Most people want to take their dog to a park or a trail,” he said. “We’re catering to that small minority of people who just can’t leave their dog home alone.”