When I first started traveling with my dogs, I was repeatedly surprised and perplexed by places labeled “pet friendly”.
Frequently, I was disappointed.
It turns out that there is a big difference between let and allow – between pets allowed vs pet friendly.
UPDATED: originally published June 2013
Pets Allowed vs Pet Friendly
So what is the difference between pets allowed and pet friendly?
Although “pets allowed” and “pet friendly” are similar terms, they can have slightly different meanings.
Pets allowed typically means that an establishment, such as a hotel or rental property, allows animals to be brought in and kept on the premises.
This may come with certain restrictions, such as only allowing certain types or sizes of pets, or requiring that pets be kept in certain areas of the property.
There also may be a hefty pet fee that is cost prohibitive for most.
I call this the f-you pet fee because the hotel is saying pets are allowed but the super high fee is kind of their way of saying “but we don’t really want your pet to stay here.”
Pet friendly is a step further and typically means that an establishment not only allows pets, but also welcomes them and provides amenities or services that are specifically designed to accommodate them.
This might include things like dog beds, bowls, or even dog treats.
A pet friendly hotel may also have a designated area for pet relief and may have staff trained to handle pet related situations.
In other words, “pets allowed” means that you can bring your pet with you, while “pet friendly” means that not only you can bring your pet but also the establishment is equipped to handle and cater to your pet’s needs.
One experience feels more like “pet tolerant” and one is welcoming and enjoyable.
All Pets Might Not Be Allowed
Here is another area where you could likely feel duped or cheated.
Pet friendly very often only means dog friendly.
Working in the pet space, I know many people who like to travel with cats, hamsters, snakes, birds, etc.
It’s significantly less common to find a hotel that allows cats, let alone “non-traditional” pets.
Be sure to read the fine print if you plan to book a hotel or vacation rental with anything more than a dog.
There are hotels out there with very accommodating pet policies.
For example, the Ashore Hotel in Seaside, Or lists there hotel policy as. “if it fits through the door, it can stay.”
They told me they had a mini pig stay once.
What Pet Friendly Means to Me
Now that I have a lot of experience traveling with my dogs, I like to call it like it is and use different terms to differentiate what pet friendly really means at a particular establishment.
Different terms I use are:
- Dog allowed – the place only allows dogs
- Pets allowed – cats, and maybe even a different type of pet, are allowed
- Dog friendly – dogs are welcome and the establishment goes above and beyond to welcome your dog.
- Pet Friendly – cats, and maybe even a different type of pet, are welcome and the establishment makes an extra effort to welcome them.
I, by far, prefer to stay and patronize truly pet friendly establishments because I like to support the ability of all pet types to travel with their owners.
But, simply dog friendly will do for my needs.
When a place is truly dog friendly, they love their dog guests and often provide special amenities for them.
These things can include:
- Allowing dogs to stay in guest rooms at no additional cost
- Allowing well-behaved (quiet) dogs to stay in your room unattended
- Recognizing that your dog is part of the family and providing special sheets or blankets for furniture so they can sleep and sit with you
- Providing a designated pet relief area
- Offering pet-related items such as food and water bowls and a doggie menu
- Providing, or instructing you how to access, services such as dog walkers and groomers
Sadly, the establishments that even one of the items above is few and far between.
Pet friendly more often that not simply means dogs allowed.
The establishment may not allow other types of pets and may simply tolerate your dog (vs welcoming them with open arms).
The size of the pet fee at hotels and vacation rentals doesn’t always reflect the amount of accommodations, and luxuries, provided to your pet.
Sometimes I suspect that a high fee is intended to deter pet owners from staying.
Regardless, even if you hear a place is pet friendly from a trusted source, you may want to call ahead to confirm yourself.
The truth is that some of these people get their information just like you and I would – from the internet or word or mouth.
In an ideal world, they would verify this information before passing it on but that happens less often than you think.
Hotel policies do not change often and rapidly but restaurant policies certainly do.
Some restaurants might let dogs onto their patio for a while but discontinue the practice if they get a complaints from patrons or the health department.
One manager on shift may allow dogs but another may not.
The two most important things to remember when traveling and attending events with your pet is to be as prepared as you can and always be prepared to change your plans if needed.
If you’re planning an upcoming trip with your dog, you might want to check out my articles Best Websites for Planning a Dog Friendly Vacation and this travel essentials printable checklist.
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