Dinner without seagulls thanks to patrol dogs at the Sydney Opera House

For many, a table at Sydney’s Opera Bar overlooking the blue waters of its world-famous harbor is prime real estate during the summer.

But seagulls scurrying to pick meals forced bar administrators to enlist trained dogs to ensure patrons have fun on site trying to recover from COVID lockdowns and restrictions.

Sammy McPherson, general manager of the Opera Kitchen adjoining the bar, said he noticed an 80-85 per cent reduction in aerial attacks since the first trial of canine patrols in 2018.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen’s dog handler Carla Shoobert and Rasy the dog patrol for seagulls at Sydney’s Opera Bar Australia. (REUTERS/James Redmayne)

“It was a game-changer, you might say, in hospitality,” McPherson told Reuters. “We don’t have to run after the birds and the amount of replacement food, the broken glasses, the broken plates. It was absolutely amazing.

The dogs and their handlers patrol the boardwalk in front of the waterfront settlements and hunt gulls. The company providing the service has 12-13 dogs on rotation, spread out daily with double shifts on weekends.

Dog handler Carla Shoobert said she uses dogs that are naturally prone to chasing gulls, such as Australian kelpies and border collies.

“People stare at you in confusion for the first hour of your shift, trying to figure out what you’re doing,” she said.

patrol dog, Sydney Opera House Mad Dogs and Englishmen handler Carla Shoobert feeds Rasy the dog at the Sydney Opera House bar in Australia February 15, 2022. Picture taken February 15, 2022. REUTERS/James Redmayne

“Then you’ll take your five-minute break…and you’ll come back and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, that’s what she’s doing’ because the birds are coming back. Then they usually pull you aside and say, “That’s amazing.”

“Despite the presence of other birds such as pigeons, the dogs are focused solely on the seagulls. And with the gulls in full retreat, the Sydney Opera House has engaged the canines to fulfill their duty for the foreseeable future.

Diners said the dogs gave the place a more pleasant atmosphere.

“We don’t have to constantly cover our food and we don’t have to hunt seagulls or trample, and you can really enjoy your time here at Opera Bar,” said Banita Sarkhosh, resident of Sidney.

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