The Western Bay of Plenty's largest shopping centre has introduced a parking facility - for dogs.

Bayfair Shopping Centre's doggy park offers shade, water and a lockable chain for shoppers' four-legged friends. Bayfair marketing manager Kylie McGregor said the facility had been popular since it was unveiled a week ago.

"There's numerous dogs and every time we go out there the customers say 'that's fantastic'," Ms McGregor said. Bayfair posted a picture of the new parking system on its Facebook page yesterday and gained more than 550 "likes" and 60-plus comments by 4pm. Though some people feared dogs would be vulnerable to theft, Ms McGregor said: "There's lockable collars, it's under surveillance and it's in a high-traffic area."

"In fairness, it's not for every dog owner but we have had dog owners who tie up their dogs to seats or stands outside while they go in. It's a place to give the dog a place, with shade and water."

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The shopping centre had taken calls from concerned customers, especially during summer, when some dogs were left in parked cars.

"If we keep even just one or two dogs safe, then it's worth it," she said.

The doggy park is located in the courtyard between the covered carpark and the part of the Bayfair building that hosts Westpac, Kiwibank and the Post Shop.

Bayfair and Papamoa Vets' Jill McFarlane said dogs could suffer heat exhaustion within minutes inside a car: "Good on Bayfair for doing this ... .

"I think it's a really good idea, but I would also say 'make sure your dogs have collars, tags and microchips, just in case."

It was also a high-risk area for unvaccinated dogs.