If I were to ask you what would be your top three criteria for choosing a café to visit, I'm sure you - as with every sane person - would suggest the same three key metrics.
1) The quality, with respect to the price, of the coffee.
2) The general atmosphere and ambience of the venue.
3) The presence of either pandas, or of an animal that - through minimally intrusive cosmetic alteration - can closely resemble a panda.
Well, while so many cafés have been focusing on the first two criteria at the expense of the third, a café in China has sought to exploit this untapped demand.
The Cute Pet Games cafe in Chengdu - a city in the south-west Sichuan province - opened last month and has since garnered significant attention, and criticism, for keeping on the premises six chow chows that have been dyed black and white to resemble pandas.
Obviously, when we use the phrase 'to resemble pandas', we mean it in the loosest possible terms. They are dogs, and are still evidently dogs, given the fact that they a) have tails, b) perambulate like dogs, and c) don't have to spend an unreasonable amount of time eating bamboo due to an evolutionary quirk in their digestive systems. They merely resemble pandas to the extent that they have been made paler and have had dark rings added around their eyes. And - if these are our terms for something to 'resemble a panda' - then we could reasonably say that a mid-noughties Marilyn Manson may soon end up under the employ of this café being forced to pose as a panda.
There has been significant outcry from people perceiving this as animal exploitation, and stating that some dyes can prove damaging to a dog's skin. However, according to the owner these chow chows were purchased already dyed - thus supposedly absolving him of any moral, or actual, responsibility. Entirely separate to that however, the owners are reportedly also offering a service to any interested customers whereby for, around the equivalent of €170, they can have a dog dyed in similar colours so that it too will vaguely resemble a panda. So, while they definitely do possess the capacity and requisite infrastructure to dye dogs so that they resemble pandas, they - to be clear - are not responsible for the dogs on their premises, and in their care, that have been dyed to resemble pandas.
Following the online criticism though the café posted, on Weibo - a Chinese social networking site - that they would no longer be offering the dyeing service for customer's dogs. They stated that, "Chengdu is the home of pandas. We wanted to do something different, to differentiate us from other regular dog cafes and pet shops." Before going on to add that, "As their owners, their lives are much better than ours. They are also very healthy. Netizens please don’t project your thoughts on to us."
We can only hope that these dogs are allowed to return to their natural colour. Or, if that seems like it'll take too much time, that they are dyed back to their natural colour.