Dog lovers are being encouraged to take their pets walkies to the shops.
Pet shop owner Vicki Lister has launched the Dog Friendly Wetherby Shop Sit Stay scheme after she realised just how welcoming businesses in the market town, Tadcaster and villages in the area were to canines.
“It all started because my dog Cookie was diagnosed with cancer and has separation anxiety,” said Vicki, who has owned The Barking Lot with husband Tim for nine years.
“She was with us in the shop all day but we wanted to take her to as many places with us as we could. We didn’t want to leave her.”
Vicki added that during outings to town centre shops they had found favourite places where her beloved 11-year-old dog was welcome.
“I had always taken Cookie into Johnson’s greengrocer and the Artisan Cheese Company, where Stephen spoils her with bits of cheese, but when I started asking around, I found that so many more businesses allowed and even encouraged dogs.”
Vicki appealed through social media to find out how many other traders were as welcoming to four-legged friends.
“We had over 50 suggestions for businesses in Wetherby and surrounding area,” added Vicki.
“We were amazed at how many will allow dogs in their premises.
“The list was started and now we are publishing leaflets to let other dog owners know.”
And Vicki, who is originally from Chicago in America, said there were benefits for not just dogs and their owners but for people and the economy.
“Dogs are pack animals and love being with us, and they also help lower stress in humans,” added Vicki.
Dog Friendly scheme organiser Vicki Lister added: “Having their company while we’re out and about means we can take time to browse and relax rather than worrying about how much time they’ve been home alone.
“Welcoming dogs in our town is a win-win for everyone. People with dogs will use the high street more if they know they can bring them, so I think this will help to promote the shop local ethos as well.
“By listing dog-friendly accommodation, we’re hoping to encourage new visitors from all over the UK.
“I’ve already been contacted by another Yorkshire town that wants to try the initiative there, so hopefully it will roll out across Yorkshire.”
But she added: “We are asking that people respect the business owners by only bringing well-behaved dogs into the shops.”
Wetherby has a history of trying out new initiatives in a bid to attract visitors, through its Welcome to Wetherby group and ShopAppy scheme which has generated footfall of 548 to Wetherby since starting four months ago.
Denise Podlewska, of Welcome to Wetherby and a newly co-opted Wetherby councillor, praised those who have signed up to Shop Sit Stay.
“The scheme is a marvellous initiative and Vicki should be applauded for her hard work in getting this accepted by so many traders in Wetherby,” she said.
“This can only be seen as a step in the right direction and will benefit any shop showing the sticker in its window.
“As a dog owner myself, it’s wonderful to see which shops you can take your dog into – some are surprising!
“Welcome to Wetherby are delighted with this. Most shops, pubs, cafés and restaurants can allow dogs in but some choose not to.
“They are missing out on a large section of the public who come into Wetherby and don’t want to be parted from their dogs.”
She added that there is a legal requirement that dogs are not allowed in a food preparation area.
Coun Podlewska added: “If I came into Wetherby with my dog and wanted lunch, I am going to go somewhere showing the sticker.”
Leaflets listing dog friendly Wetherby businesses, along with others including in Thorp Arch, Bardsey, Boston Spa and surrounding areas, are available from The Barking Lot or online at www.thebarkinglot.co.uk.