Humans enjoy gourmet bites like caviar on imported crackers and expensive champagne. Our major cities are filled with restaurants where the most skilled chefs serve the upper class the very finest foods the world has to offer. Over the last decade or so, this common practice has actually begun to shift from humans to making domestic pets the up and coming market for gourmet eateries. Cities all over America (and even Canada, Europe and Asia) are beginning to feature popular dining hot spots for pets. At first blush this might seem like an amusing or creative idea, but what are the ramifications (if there are any)? Should we as pet parents be enthused, skeptical or ambivalent?  Here are some things to consider about luxury pet diners.

Are they truly for the dogs or for us?

One question this raises, is “are gourmet pet restaurants for the dog’s enjoyment or our entertainment?” Dogs love to eat, and any canine owner knows that pups are hardly known for being picky eaters.  As long as the food is readily available and doesn’t taste half bad, they really don’t seem to mind what they are ingesting.  So why shell out the big bucks so our furry friends can munch on alcohol-free bacon beer, or steak-pizza for pups?  Is it so we can giggle at the table with our friends as our Bulldog buddy scarfs down his plate in 60-seconds or less? Or maybe we can Instagram the restaurant, and our pampered pooch to really feel like good pet-parents. If the dog takes no notice of either the quality of the meal, its presentation, or the caliber of the luxury venue, maybe going out for a gourmet bite with our dogs is really more about our social standing, self-perception, or our own amusement.  Maybe that extra money could be put to better use in purchasing quality pet food for our dogs, rather than going out to eat just for our own entertainment.

Why It Matters

Call me an idealist, but there may be some negative effects that this kind of establishment could have on society. In Los Angeles, for example, there are a few phenomenally rated luxury pet restaurants in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, where celebs and locals mingle to get a delicious doggy-bag for their pets. However, less than 5 miles down Sunset Blvd, you can see homeless people sitting on the streets hoping a passerby will spare a few quarters so that they can get a meal deal from MacDonald’s.

Granted, some homeless people are in their situation because they are unwilling to work, and prefer to live off the charity of others. However, many are genuinely destitute, struggling with addictions, unable to find work or shelter and have fallen up extremely hard times. It is a stark contrast to consider investing money in a dog who is already well-fed, doesn’t care about whether or not his puppy chow is fresh off pet store shelves, or crafted by a designer chef in a glamorous kitchen, when there are humans who are barely making it meal to meal.

There is nothing wrong with amusement, having fun with your pet, and trying new things.  But perhaps those dollars and cents would be better spent in dignifying a human life, rather than dressing up a canine one.  I am not saying gourmet pet food shops are wrong, nor do I intend to demean their patrons. I rather suggest that perhaps it is unfortunate that we are cultivating a society that cares more about a trivial experience when there are people suffering around us every day.