Like many Berkeley dog owners, Tracy Koretsky and Ken McMillan would rather have their shepherd-airedale mix Jezebel by their side than stuck indoors at home or tethered to a pole when they’re about town.
Plenty of local businesses feel the same way.
Whether you want a beer, a book, a DVD, cigars, or even a fresh coat of paint, several local shops won’t just let your dog come inside, they’re liable to give it some water and a treat.
“We travel a lot and this is probably the best place in the country to have a dog,” Koretsky said.
The first rule about having a dog in Berkeley is that the city has a lot of dog rules and often it seems as if lawmakers are chasing their tails.
For instance, according to city humane commissioner Jill Posener, the city prohibits residents from having more than four dogs in a single home. But someone who owns four dogs would be breaking the law if he walked all of them on Telegraph Avenue, since Berkeley forbids more than three dogs from congregating at the same place on Telegraph. The law was passed to target homeless youth and their dogs, Posener said.
Tethering dogs outside shops is illegal, although typically not enforced, in Berkeley. Yet, the city allows well behaved dogs to be walked off-leash. Owners—or “guardians” as they are called by law in Berkeley—who can show that their dog responds to voice commands and can stay within a safe distance of them don’t have to use a leash.
“Try telling that to the police,” Posener warned. As a native of England, she said she pines for her native land where dogs are welcomed in several movie theaters and restaurants.
“Europeans are much more dog savvy,” she said. “Americans are obsessed with dogs, but not in a healthy way.”
In Berkeley, only licensed service dogs can go wherever their owners take them, and even that isn’t always easy. Recently a woman needed to call the police to force the local Subway shop to let her service dog inside the eatery, Posener said.
For dog owners like Koretsky and McMillan a visit to Subway is out of the question, but there are plenty of places that roll out the red carpet for canines.
The best place to have beer with your dog is the Albatross Pub (1822 San Pablo Ave). While your dog might be no match for you when it comes to the pub’s full compliment of board games and Sunday night trivia, he is welcome to sit at your side.
Book lovers have plenty of dog-friendly options. Cody’s welcomes dogs in their Telegraph Avenue and Fourth Street stores. Pegasus & Pendragon Books allow dogs at its stores on Shattuck and Solano Avenues, and Barnes and Noble lets dogs in its Shattuck Avenue store. In fact, one of the few places full of books that doesn’t allow dogs is the public library. Only service dogs are allowed there.
When it comes to the video rental stores, dog owners say that Reel Video (2655 Shattuck Ave.) and Five Star Video (1550 University Ave. and 1501 Solano Ave.) are as dog-friendly as they come. The folks at Five Star might even have a few treats up their sleeves.
Not surprisingly, the most dog-friendly shops happen to sell pet supplies. Pet Food Express (1101 University Ave. and 6398 Telegraph Ave.) welcomes dogs as does George, an upscale boutique (1829 Fourth St.) where Louis Vuitton dog biscuits are available.
Fourth Street is generally considered by dog owners to be the most dog-friendly shopping district in the city. “Richer business neighborhoods tend to be more amenable towards dogs,” Posener said.
No matter how high-end the neighborhood, dog owners shouldn’t expect to see the inside of a restaurant or a supermarket with their best friends by their side. State law prohibits pets in shops where fresh food is sold.
The best option in Berkeley are restaurants with spacious outdoor seating and a dog-friendly waiter. Several people said Cafe Trieste (2500 San Pablo Ave.) will sometimes offer dogs water while they sit outside waiting for their owners to finish their espressos. The courtyard on Domingo Street, just across the street from the Claremont Hotel, also wins high marks. Customers at the Peet’s Coffee or at Rick and Ann’s can sit outside with their dogs while enjoying a Sunday brunch.
Most dog owners seemed to have a favorite pro-dog establishment. Sally Reyes said the people at Pursel Paints (2161 University Ave.) often have a treat for her Australian Shepherd. Margo Robatto said her shepherd mix has been allowed in Amoeba Music on Telegraph Avenue. Melisa Frilot said her dog is welcome at Lucky Smokes, a tobacco shop on Shattuck Avenue.
For most Berkeley dogs the shorter their stature the greater their access to area shops. Judith Phelan said she has been allowed to take her lap-sized Chihuahua mix into Target. “As long as she can fit into the shopping cart, they don’t have a problem,” she said.
A Target employee said the Albany store actually allowed all dogs, but that might change because the store has received complaints.
For overnight guests, the Golden Bear Inn on San Pablo Avenue allows pets.
If you just want your dog to get some exercise, there are plenty of places to recommend. Berkeley is home to the Ohlone Dog Park, the nation’s first, founded in 1979 at Hearst Avenue and Grant Street. It has enough space to let small dogs run and their owners sit and talk about their four-legged pals. “We all come here so we can socialize with each other,” Robin Davis said as she was sitting with friends at the park bench.
An Oakland resident, Davis also takes her dog to the dog park on Claremont Avenue underneath Highway 24. But the dog park that gets the best reviews is in Alameda.
“It has a separate park for big dogs and small dogs,” said Frilot. “Nothing else compares.” If you’re in Alameda, you can also take your dog on the ferry as long as you can squeeze it into a carrier.
When dog owners want to get some exercise too, they recommend the Lower Jordan Fire Trail at the eastern edge of the UC Berkeley campus. Take Centennial Drive and park in the dirt lot just before the Botanical Garden. The trail features a creek and a redwood grove. “It’s fantastic how removed you feel from city life when you’re up there,” said Sasha Futran.
Other friendly places for dogs are the Berkeley Marina, home to Cesar Chavez Park, and Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills. Tilden has a mini train ride that allows dogs. For information call 549-6100.
While Point Isabelle in Richmond remains the most popular place to have your dog off leash, many dog owners still flock to the beach at the Albany Bulb in the Eastshore State Park even though off leash dog walking is illegal at state parks. To the dismay of many local environmentalists fearful for the welfare of migrating birds, dogs still roam free at the Bulb, which is the only East Bay beach that at least tacitly allows off leash dogs.
“We think the state law is stupid,” said Nancy Jean, who takes her lab and border collie mixes to the Bulb. “What are they going to do, eat the weeds?”