Industries Hotels/Tourism

Yappy hour

Pets are welcome at growing number of hotels and resorts in Virginia

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Kimpton's Hoter Monaco welcomes pets. Charlie, director of pet relations, greets visitors.
Photo courtesy Kimpton Hotels

Imagine the look on the faces of hotel guests when they saw penguins — the birds, not the hockey team — waddling around a New York Kimpton hotel. The penguins were traveling with Columbus Zoo staff who were appearing on one of the New York-based late-night television shows. Their presence in the hotel represents a growing trend: pet-friendly hotels.

According to the 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, there are more than 155 million households in the U.S. with pets.  When pet owners travel, many can’t imagine leaving their pets at home. In fact, they are so passionate about their animals that nearly one-third of pet owners polled in a recent survey commissioned by AAA and Best Western International said they would rather travel with their pet than with their significant other.

The Kimpton chain recognized this trend back in 1981 when the company was founded. Since then it has welcomed any pet guest — not just dogs and cats — regardless of size, weight or breed. Kimpton doesn’t have an additional charge for a pet but most hotels do charge a fee.

When it comes to pet amenities, each Kimpton hotel supplies water bowls, treats, beds, toys and pooper-scooper bags. Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco in Alexandria offers a doggie yappy hour, a pet-friendly take on its complimentary wine hour. The Hotel Monaco in Seattle takes it a step further with a “bake-a-bone” station where guests can make homemade treats for their pets. Many of the chain’s hotels also have canine concierges with the title of director of pet relations. On average about 10 to 15 percent of Kimpton’s guests bring pets..

Sheila Johnson, founder of the new Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, made the resort both dog and horse friendly. Dogs stay with their owners in terrace-level rooms that open to the grand lawn while horses are boarded in one of three wings in the stables on the property. “Sheila is a great lover of dogs and horses,” says Matt Owen, the resort’s corporate director of public relations. “We recognized that our target demographic likes to travel with their pets. A lot of people that travel with horses also travel with dogs.”

Traveling with pets is a continuously growing trend, especially in our area of Virginia, Owen adds. “Horses and hounds are synonymous with each other. And in Middleburg, being dog friendly is par for the course.”

Anyone who brings a dog on property has to sign an agreement that the dog is up-to-date on its shots, and the dog must not be left unattended in a guest room. Horse owners also must provide proof that their horse is current on shots.

“We will look after your horse, turn it out and feed it as you would normally do,” says Owen, noting that the fee for that service is $75 a night. There also is a $90 non-refundable dog fee per stay, and there is a maximum of two dogs per room.

At Salamander, in-room amenities for dogs include a bed, food and water bowls, organic treats, waste bags and a special toy. During warmer months, the resort hosts yappy hour once a week, which is open to both hotel guests and the Middleburg community. “We set up a bar and buckets of water,” Owen says. “It’s very popular for guests to bring their dogs. Normally we are never without a dog on the property.”

Guests bringing their pets represent less than 50 percent of Salamander’s business, but as guests learn that the resort is pet friendly that number could change. “Weekend, leisure travelers are certainly more likely to bring their pets than the midweek business meeting attendee,” Owen says. The resort opened in August.

Dogs are the only pets permitted at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg. Guests can have two dogs in a room. There is a weight limit of 75 pounds for one dog and 50 pounds per dog for two. The resort has specific rooms on the second floor designated for guests with dogs, and there is a one-time $100 cleaning fee.

Amenities feature a hotel logo dog bowl for use at the resort, complimentary treats and in-room dining from the aptly named canine kitchen. Gourmet dog entrees include peanut butter doggie bones, Virginia apple pup cakes, Lansdowne ruffey risotto and meatloaf a la Fido.

This past holiday season the resort offered a “howl for the holidays” package that allowed dogs to stay free with a guest, waiving the $100 non-refundable fee.
Guests at the Tides Inn in Irvington have been bringing their pets to the resort since 1970. One of the largest pets to visit is a 180-pound Saint Bernard. “I have allowed her here several times,” says General Manager Gordon Slatford. The inn’s most unusual pet, he adds, was a Conure parrot. No reptiles are allowed.

One of the inn’s most frequent guests is George, an English bulldog. When his owner asked Slatford if George would be welcomed, he gave the following reply:

“George will be most welcome to stay at the Tides Inn if he promises to brush his teeth, comb his hair and behave as a true English gentleman. We have a pet agreement, which in essence underwrites his behavior and clarifies that if George decides to eat the furniture rather than his dinner you will cover the cost. We charge a nominal daily pet fee [$35] for accompanying pets as we have found that some animals get neurotic if they believe they are being given charity.”

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