For many people, the phrase “pet travel” evokes images of indulgence, of ladies with with little frou frou dogs getting pedicures in hotel spas (the dogs, that is, not the ladies). As I discussed last week in my post on 9 Things That Genuinely Make a Hotel Pet Friendly, I blame the hotel PR industry for promoting baubles over basics.
We pet owners know that we travel with our companion animals because we consider them members of our family, whether we’re taking them on vacation or showing them at a breed or agility event.
So here’s a thought: Why not behave as ethically about pet travel as we would about any other kind of travel? A lot of people refused to visit South Africa when it was under apartheid. We animal lovers have our own version of apartheid, Breed Discriminatory Laws — commonly known as Breed Specific Legislation or BSL — breed bans being the most egregious of them.
I was delighted to learn, via a comment on my post questioning the use of the bland acronym BSL, that Rod and Amy Burkert had a page on their GoPet Friendly.com site discussing these laws and their reach, both in terms of geography and the breeds affected. They gave advice on how to find out whether a place you want to visit has Breed Discriminatory Laws, and what to do in case you accidentally find yourself in one of these places with a POODL (Pitbullish or Otherwise Dangerous Looking) dog. In a case of serendipity or great minds thinking alike, while I was planning to write on today’s topic, Amy read my earlier post and updated her site to reflect her recognition of the blandness of the term BSL and add new information. You can find it all here.
It’s all very well and good for owners of POODL dogs to avoid these places. That’s what the ignoramuses who create these laws want. But what about the rest of the pet-traveling public, those of us with little fluffy dogs, big doofy-looking goofballs, mid-sized mutts with no muscle tone? Let’s show some solidarity!
Just as it’s always a good idea to let pet friendly businesses know how much we appreciate them, we can also do the opposite: Let pet unfriendly destinations know that we travel, that we love animals, and that we’re not going to spend any money in places that practice breed bans or animal cruelty.
I know, I know. It’s impossible to avoid places that treat animals cruelly in the strictest sense of the term. We can probably find some form of factory farming — or at least raising animals for food under horrible conditions — in every county of every state of the U.S. and every province of Canada. Then there are the states (thankfully diminishing in number) where there is greyhound racing…
We would have to stay home in our own violation-filled cities and towns if we adhered to even the mildest, most reasonable definitions of animal cruelty.
That said, we can select out some major issues and focus on them. Along with avoiding places that have breed bans, my other top destinations to stay away from would be those where puppy mills flourish. For example, many people — including me, when I lived on the east coast — visit Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, because it’s Amish Country, and how quaint is that to see people living as though in another century? Not very: Lancaster County has been called the puppy mill capital of the east coast, and there’s nothing quaint about animal cruelty.
So… If you’re on a planning committee for an animal-related event or conference, tell members who may not be aware of the problems why they shouldn’t hold the event there — and then, when you convince the committee to make alternative plans, be sure to tell a representative of the Chamber of Commerce or the Convention and Visitors Bureau why you won’t be booking halls, hotel rooms, and otherwise spending money in their town. Same if you’re going on vacation: It’s simple enough to send an email to the local tourism organization saying “I thought you should know that, while X seems like a lovely place, I’ll be spending my money in Y where they don’t [have breed bans] [allow puppy mills to thrive].”
They get enough of those emails and you can bet the tourism folks will pay attention. We’ve got to start somewhere, right?
Dogs don’t have voices or wallets. We have both.
There are other ways to travel ethically with pets; this is just one. What else do you think the term ethical pet travel encompasses?