It is not uncommon to see malls with empty storefronts, pets accompanying people in businesses as “service animals” and older people walking for fitness in malls during inclement weather.

Why not combine the common into something new?

So it is at the Rushmore Mall in Rapid City, S.D.

It all began with a man asking the mall’s administration for a place to play indoors with his pet. That idea has become Bar K-9, a 4,200-square-foot space that was an otherwise unused Payless Shoe Source.

Here, patrons can bring their pets, remaining in attendance, but otherwise let them romp and play. In the meantime, the people can imbibe beer and wine.

The mall’s administration makes it clear the K-9 Bar is not a drop off point for pets while people go shop. Instead, it is an indoor dog park with the added perks of adult beverages. Total capacity is 30 pets at a time with entrance through an exterior doorway.

Why do I envision thumping music, a bodybuilder type with a clipboard, and a velvet rope checking names off a list for those who can go in?

“Yo, hey, Mr. Thickneck, good to see you again there, bro! How’re the workouts going? Looks like you’re getting bigger, man. Say, how about you shake hands with Mr. Grant here and you let me and the little lady on the leash in the tent?”

Like any good bar, there are rules. No other species. Must have proof of vaccination. Pets must pass a temperament test, whatever that means. And there is a strict three-strikes-and-Rover-is-banned policy for canine troublemakers.

Unlike most bars, the mall is set up with special mess-proof flooring and soundproof materials.

Next up is a hearing before the local planning and zoning officials as the mall was not set up to be a pet park back in the days when it was the principal babysitter on weekends for orbiting teens.

All kidding aside, this is a great idea and one a mall could use to attract more people. Maybe the beer and wine would be out thanks to our goofy liquor control authorities.

Taking a look around the internet, there are lists of the best indoor dog parks to take your pet in the nation.

Venus de Fido heads the list in a Palm Desert, Calif. Visitors can bring dogs in for “days of relaxation and entertainment with a unique focus on health and wellness for your four-legged friends.” The business offers year-round classes and workshops for pet owners and education and training for the pooches. Weekly play groups provide socialization and fitness.

A “Fido-and-You Fitness” course is aimed at getting the flab off both owner and pet. After a tough workout flipping tractor tires and such, one can pop their furry friends into the Bow Wow Boutique for grooming.

Oh but wait, lest we be accused of poking fun at Californians, I give you Wagg’n Montana, in Missoula, “a full indoor dog park, daycare and dog boarding facility, featuring an 8,100-square-foot off-leash play area with pet-friendly anti-skid floors.” It comes in at No. 3 on the list.

They also offer “a self-service dog wash (that) allows visitors to groom their own pets with professional equipment and organic bathing amenities.”

Paw Patrol staff members offer free webcam service for owners to log in and watch their pets.

Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email

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