When I think of traveling with my dog, I envision a leisurely road trip, a safe trip, a clean room on check in resplendent with pet-friendly amenities, and fees that are reasonable, affordable and not exorbitant.
Then reality sets in.
In my over 20 years of traveling with dogs, I’ve seen the not-often-talked about side of pet travel and what the properties and pet travel industry don’t talk about. I’ve taken less than 10 trips without a dog and that is because I flew and I refuse to fly a dog as cargo.
So what is it that really happens when housekeeping “deep cleans” a room that has been occupied by pets? Apparently, there is a process that takes into consideration the hair, dander, and saliva that dogs leave behind. More advanced methods include carpet shampoo, a more thorough cleaning of the room, and a heavier-than-usual sweep versus traditional housekeeping methods. I wrote about cleaning fees in pet friendly rooms recently for my Pet360 Dog Appeal blog.
Are you the proud pet parent of a dog that generally exceeds the weight limit at hotels and “pet-friendly” accommodations? You aren’t alone: According to a recent survey, 34% of traveling dog owners have dogs over 50 pounds.
I’ve often wondered why these restrictions are in place at all: Any creature, human or canine, is capable of damaging something. Heavy shedders are heavy shedders, despite their size. Maybe big dog liability issues and misconception that size can cause fear and/or harm to other guests at the hotel are a part of the reason for weight and size bans. I just don't know.
As of this writing, my Cocker Spaniel has yet to be weighed on a hotel front desk scale (do they exist?), but we’ve exceeded the 25 pound limit a few times. Policies vary, but as anyone who travels with a dog knows, weight limits are enforced. This excludes a LOT of dogs. If anyone in the hotel industry reads this, try and ask your manager if you can get this rule lifted. If you travel with a big dog and feel excluded, start voicing your beliefs: Big dogs matter. Tell the manager, write to the chain, express your concern and the dollars they are missing.
Pet Friendly for a Buck
Some hotels masquerade as pet friendly, when in essence, they are far from it. Ever stayed somewhere that wanted an outlandish amount of money for the “luxury” of allowing your dog to stay with you? The highest pet fee I encountered was $250 at the Trump Hotel in Soho, New York. I was there doing a review of the property so my fee was waived, but the price tag is not one the average pet traveler will afford. This, I deduced, is probably why they charge $250 per pet to stay there: To deter folks from doing so. Then again, if I could afford the Trump Hotel, $250 is probably Trump Chump change.
Not All Restraints are Created Equal
According to the 2011 AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Survey, 84 percent of respondents bring their dogs on car trips but do not use a restraint. Pets need to be kept safe and secure, but the truth of the matter is: Not all restraints perform when needed.
In July, the Center for Pet Safety ran a series of videos from its pilot study of the “crash-worthiness” of canine automotive restraints. They report a third-party independent test lab, MGA Research Corporation, tested a variety of pet harnesses to the conditions of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 for child safety restraints.
The results were a complete failure — for ALL restraints tested. Four harnesses were tested in the control group, and every time there were multipoint failures. At one point, the videos reveal a complete separation from the connection point; another shows an instance of complete decapitation of the test (dummy) dog as a result of the harness moving upward on impact. In its press release, the Center for Pet Safety reported, “no protection would be provided to either the dog or to vehicle occupants in similar crash conditions.”
I wrote a detailed piece for Dogster magazine about the farce of dog harnesses. So what is a dog parent to do in order to protect their pooch while traveling? After all, humans are required to buckle up, and in many states, so is the dog. An unrestrained 80-pound dog in a wreck going 30 miles per hour equates to 2,400 pounds of projectile force, per the AAA/Kurgo study.
According to Lindsay Wolko, of the Center for Pet Safety, in their forthcoming report, there are harnesses that performed as they should. I am waiting with bated breath for that report. Check out the current case study with visuals (not intended for young children, as the videos and images can be disturbing):
Thankfully, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) recently announced a new partnership with Subaru of America, the first auto manufacturer to fund standards development for pet travel products.
Potty Areas Can Be Hazardous
Have you ever stayed at a hotel that had either A) no area for dogs to do their potty breaks or B) expected you to have Fido pee in a small area or even on rocks? (I’ve encountered both).
The hotel and lodging facilities across the U.S. (and probably Canada, though I’ve not been there yet) need a good swift wake-up call. There is no guidebook or guidelines in place for what makes a good pet friendly establishment. This is something near and dear to our hearts and something we are working on at present time. In the meantime, my dog pretty much does his potty business on most surfaces, something I instilled in him as a pup. I do a lot of pet-friendly travel, so he knows that peeing on concrete, rocks, grass, or gravel is all the same.
Has anything ticked you off about pet-friendly travel? We’re all ears; bark as us in the comments below.