May 31, 2007

I've got a bone to pick with hotels

I've had it.

I've had enough of hotels treating pet owners as second class, even third class citizens.

I've had enough of hotels dumping pet owners in smoking rooms.

I've had enough of hotels nickel-and-diming us with exorbitant and/or nonrefundable pet fees...sometimes even equal to the hotel rate!

In desperation, we dog owners end up in smaller (sometimes dingier) establishments, which usually charge no or a nominal pet fee ($5-$20 per day). The nicest hotel we've stayed in since having our dog was the Sheraton Crystal City hotel in Arlington, VA. Not only were there no pet fees, the room we were assigned to was NOT a smoking room. It was no different from the room where my parents and sister slept.

I understand that there are dogs out there who misbehave in hotels, thereby ruining it for other innocent dogs. But there are also humans who misbehave and trash a place. No one's putting them in smoking rooms and charging them extra for the privilege of staying in the hotel.

Let's face it, pet ownership is on the rise in the US. Unlike in other countries, pets here are being treated as extended members of the family. We bathe them, clothe them and feed them. Most couples I know - both married and unmarried - own at least one dog. Perhaps it's the practice baby. A chance to see if they can handle the responsibilities of taking care of a little creature. Because it IS a lot of responsibility. The dog relies on you for everything and pays you back with his affection and loyalty. Much has been said and written about a dog's loyalty. I won't add to it anymore.

Leave the dog at home, others say. They're supposed to guard your house. Officemates tell me they leave their dogs at home or in kennels when they travel. They say it's too hard to find hotels that accept dogs. Some people actually experience separation anxiety when leaving their dogs in kennels. An officemate even told me she tried to sneak in her dog, got busted and was charged $100.

Nevertheless, I don't understand why the hotel industry looks the other way when dealing with pet owners, instead of acknowledging that we do, in fact, exist. Or perhaps they actually acknowledge it because they let us pay through our noses for a night of rest.

Sure, some people are allergic to cats and dogs. They definitely cannot stay in rooms where pets are allowed. But why dump these animals in smoking rooms? They surely don't smoke. It's unfair to expose them and us to second-hand smoke.

What's a good solution to this?

Create a separate hotel that caters to pet owners. People allergic to pet dander are not allowed in, unless they have pets too. Of course, there has to be a demand for it. If pet owners who travel get together, maybe it will happen. Who knows?

Reserve an entire floor or even just a wing for pet owners.

Pets and pet owners are here to stay. Or more correctly, we'll be there to travel.