CHICHESTER CATHEDRAL is one of the latest churches to back the growing trend towards welcoming dogs.
The Cathedral’s Interim Dean, Canon Simon Holland, said last week: “Dogs are such an important part of our daily lives, bringing so much love and joy to their families. We hope that by making the cathedral a dog-friendly space, our visitors will be able to make more meaningful memories with their canine companions.”
Chichester will be the third cathedral to be dog-friendly, following the lead of Wells and Lincoln. Wells allows dogs to attend services, and, last year, won a silver award for the best dog-friendly café. A map on the National Churches Trust website lists 2921 dogs-friendly sites.
Canterbury Cathedral is due to announce its own policy in the next few days. This will be similar to that of Chichester, where dogs are allowed in the cathedral and its grounds between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and between 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. on Sundays, on the condition that they remain on a lead, are well-behaved, and do not disturb other visitors. Owners are expected to clean up after their pets. In return, cathedral staff will put out treats and water stations across the grounds.
A spokesman for Chichester Cathedral said: “Dogs and animals are a key part of life here in West Sussex, and we felt it was time for us to reflect that way of life, and the needs of the communities we serve. The number of people visiting with their canine companions has increased post-pandemic. We were turning people away from our doors, and that’s not the open and welcoming response we feel a church should have.
“We’re working with the British Pilgrimage Trust to create some new short self-guided walking routes into the city, for dogs and their owners to complete. We’re also working with partners to help highlight the other dog-friendly churches, businesses, and eateries so that visitors to our city can feel truly welcome.”
All cathedrals admit assistance dogs to their services. A Church House spokeswoman said: “There is no church-wide guidance on dogs at services; things like that are handled at a local level.”
The Church Engagement Manager for the National Churches Trust, Sarah Crossland, said: “It is great that so many churches welcome pets. For parish churches in remote and rural areas, this makes churches more accessible places for dog-owners and dog-walkers to visit and explore.
“Making a church pet-friendly is a fantastic way to encourage even more people to explore and discover churches. It is a way of opening churches up to people while they’re out walking their dog, and also to those planning holidays in the UK with their pets.”
The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals publishes a list of animal-friendly churches on its website. Its secretary, the Revd Samantha Chandler, an NSM of Hartley Wintney, in Hampshire, said: “There are many churches who will allow dogs now, including two that I look after. I am doing a wedding in June where the dog is the ring bearer. I know that some people don’t like dogs, but a lot of people find it really relaxing.
“I have done a lot of animal blessing services and I have always found that animals behave very well. People come who would never set foot in a church; so, although some might think they are a bit silly, I think they are a good tool for making church more accessible.”