Last week, I cited statistics about the increase of people traveling with pets, and quoted from the American Pet Products Association (APPA) about signs of pet friendliness in lodgings:
Many hotels across the country are adopting pet-friendly policies. Several chains have announced new pet-friendly policies that include everything from oversized pet pillows and plush doggie robes to check-in gift packages that include a pet toy, dog treat, ID tag, bone and turn down treat. Some even have a licensed dog masseuse on staff.
Sorry, APPA. That’s not pet friendliness. It’s PR.
For hotels that have genuinely pet friendly policies, such perks show the public how much they care about animals; they’re the icing on the cake. For those that don’t — and, on a rough guess, I’d estimate that would be 95% of hotels in this country (I’ll try to verify this data) — they’re just a tease.
At a svelte 10 pounds, Frankie is accepted at every hotel that lays a claim to pet-friendliness. As a result, we got to check out a lot of different types of pet perks. Indeed, before he got diabetes, Frankie was a travel slut. He was always accepting freebies — not only rooms, but also a variety of gifts and services.
He was unimpressed.
Frankie wouldn’t play with most of the toys he was given, no matter how high quality, and he turned his nose up at most of the treats. At one resort that only accepted pets weighing less than 15 pounds, Frankie was gifted with a gourmet dog biscuit that was bigger than his head. This was not a smart business decision on the part of the hotel. Any resident dog that was permitted — or managed — to eat the entire item would probably have puked all over the rug.
At another resort, Frankie got an in-room massage — which he clearly considered inappropriate touching. He tolerated it on one side of his body, but refused to allow the masseuse access to his other extremities. If you think a 10 pound pup can’t make his wishes known, you’ve never seen terriers dig in.
Room service menus? Not only are portion sizes far too large for diminutive dogs, but most people — at least the savvy ones — don’t experiment with their dogs’ diet while on vacation.
So what does make a hotel pet friendly in my opinion?
1 Accepting multiple pets of any size. Setting the limit at two seems reasonable to me, but size restrictions are senseless. I’ve seen hotel policies that permit “two dogs that weigh a total of up to 50 pounds.” Two Jack Russell terriers in a room vs, say, a greyhound and a Great Dane? I’ll take 180 plus pounds of canine couch potato against a pair of whirling dervishes any time.
2. Not charging an arm or a leg for the privilege of having your pets share your room. The notion that you should have to pay more because of extra cleaning is absurd. Deep cleaning — which would include removal of pet hair — is standard in most hotels (and in those where it is not, dog detritus would be the least of their problems). A refundable damage deposit is reasonable, as it would be, in my opinion, for most humans. Who would be more likely to trash a hotel room: Two St. Bernards or Charlie Sheen?
Those are my top two requirements, the minimum that hotels should do to be considered genuinely pet friendly by me. The other seven are on my wish list.
3. It doesn’t impose dumb rules that most people can’t follow, even if they wanted to. One lovely hotel where Frankie and I stayed had a rule that pets must sleep on the floor, not on the bed. The hotel provided a cushy pet pillow that Frankie was supposed to snooze on to make that feasible. Frankie didn’t even deign to look at the item until I put it up on my bed. Did I sign a paper agreeing to the restriction? Sure. I knew there weren’t going to be any midnight dog-in-bed checks (and if there were, Frankie would be at the door barking and I could quickly slip the dog pillow — which Frankie wasn’t using anyway — on the floor).
My ex-husband used to joke that he liked motels because he could blow his nose in the sheets if he wanted to. Not that he did — that’s not why he’s my ex — but Frankie would never think of using the bed as a bodily fluid repository unless he was very, very ill.
4. It offers designated pet walking areas with waste disposal bags. Why not make it easy for pet owners to be responsible?
5. It has rooms set aside on the first floor. Lots of dogs, including Frankie, don’t like elevators or staircases that have slats in them that let you see through to the ground — a popular feature at many motels.
6. Its pet friendly rooms are not also smoking rooms. Sorry, but dog smells — if they exist at all; Frankie isn’t the slightest bit malodorous and, like most other peripatetic pups, knows better than to go the bathroom indoors — don’t literally sink into the fabric like smoke does.
7. It has a pet-educated staff. By this I mean a staff that is trained not to approach your dog without asking you first. And if the staff member does approach without permission, it is a careful, exploratory hand sniff, not a turn over on your back and scratch your stomach (yes, this happened to us; Frankie is no biter, but I believe he would have been justified in this case).
8. It offers pet sitting/dog walking services by experts, not just moonlighting hotel bellhops or waiters.
9. It provides information on local resources. Vets, dog-friendly hiking trails, groomers, places to buy high-quality dog food…. Why not compile this information from pet-owning staff or friends of staff and have it available at the front desk?
Can you think of other useful (as opposed to frilly) amenities that would make a hotel stay better for you and your pet?
Accountability moment: I’ve been really busy with assignments — and life — and was tempted not to give my all to this post. But commitment to the project is what public accountability is about, so I ended up focusing and writing something new that will definitely be part of the book. I’m also hoping to elicit responses from others about what makes hotels pet friendly for them.
Also — writing this post put me in touch with my inner geek, bringing to mind several things I want to research for other chapters of the book: How many more people are likely to be allergic to pet hair than they are to smoke? to perfume? Is it really more difficult to clean pet hair — or any hair — from a hotel room/airline seat than it is to clean up other types of allergens?