By Astrid Zeppenfeld
Do you take your pet on your vacation? Depending on where you are going, it can sometimes be easier to schedule the trip and bring your dog or cat along with you than to kennel the family pet. This way, you don’t have any crying kids in the car who miss Fido so much they cannot bear to spend hours, let alone days, without their dog. And many hotels are very accommodating these days and allow pets to sleep in the rooms with you.
But what if you must attend a three-day conference somewhere? Chances are you wouldn’t bring the family pet – Fido could stay home because someone else would be at the house to take care of him. Unless, of course, your dog is a service dog needed for health reasons. Naturally, you would need to take along your constant companion, and you would not have any trouble with that, as the ADA stipulates that no place of business can refuse the service animal access. As a matter of fact, you would not even have to pay extra for your hotel room; under the ADA, hotels cannot charge extra for service animals. The only problem you may run into: The hotel may have only a limited amount of total rooms set aside for travelers with animals, but service animals get priority treatment over someone traveling with their pet dog.
Pet Versus Service Animal
This seems to be a frequently asked question and here is the clear-cut answer to whether we are talking about a service animal or “just a regular” pet: “Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.”
Essentially, the term “service animal” refers only to these specially-trained dogs. An iguana, who gives its owner with PTSD comfort, for instance, will therefore never be a specially-trained service animal. That is not to say you could never travel with your pet tarantula or your “regular” dog; you might just run into policy restrictions on the side of the hotel where you are staying.
To find out more about policy restrictions at different hotels, MM&E asked different hotels in the states of Missouri and Kansas. The consensus: Yes, most hotels and convention centers these days accept pets, even if some of them do not expressly advertise it on their websites. None of the ones with whom MM&E spoke had a written policy on which type of pet they would accept or not, so… yay for your pet snake! However, it also doesn’t seem to come up much as a question, either.
Christina at the Front Desk of the Holiday Inn at the Campus in Manhattan, KS, explained, “Really, the only pets we see here are dogs and cats; many of them are actually service dogs that are being treated by the vets at K-State. For a $25 surcharge to cover the extra cleaning after your stay, you can bring your pets – unless, of course, it’s a service dog and no surcharge applies.” Kaye Trout, Sales Manager Holiday Inn at the Campus, echoed Christina’s information and added, “There is no specific, written policy regarding pets. Our information just says we are pet friendly and the non-refundable pet deposit is $25.00.”
Which pets are accepted at which hotels, as well as how many of them you can bring, seems to be up to the individual hotel’s discretion. Carlissa Riddle, Director – National Accounts at Global Cynergies, partners with meeting planners to help them find appropriate venues for their companies’ meetings and events. She shares, “Hotels are going more and more pet friendly; it is definitely a trend. That being said, I have not yet encountered a meeting planner who asked me to find them a convention center that could accommodate pets, because generally, people don’t travel with their pets to corporate functions. However, if someone did ask, I would make every effort to find them a venue that accepts pets, just like I would find them a venue with a gluten-free menu, if that is what they wanted.” And Riddle would be the person to be able to do this, as a former Director of Sales for a Hilton all-suite hotel near the Kansas City airport, which was pet friendly. She tells us, “The fact that we accepted pets was actually a big selling point for us, because we would usually rent out our rooms long-term, which was considered five days or longer. I feel like people would choose our hotel because we were one of the few in the airport area that would allow pets, whether you are staying one night or six months. And we found that people were more than willing to pay the $75 surcharge for bringing a pet along.”
This particular Hilton property has specific rooms on the first floor designated for people traveling with their pets. The other floors have pet-free rooms, so if someone with a cat allergy stays there, they can ask for a room that has never had a cat stay in it. However, the hotels that MM&E spoke with, all assured us that they do apply the pet-surcharge directly to the deep-cleaning of the room. The Holiday Inn at the Campus purchased a specific cleaning machine, to assure no pet dander stays around after Fido left. Riddle says, “Our surcharge was used to pay the cleaning crew extra; therefore, they went to great lengths to wipe everything in the room down and vacuum everywhere really thoroughly.
No Rules Against Potentially Dangerous Pets
When asked what they might have done if someone had brought an exotic animal as their pet, Riddle confirmed that in all her time as Director of Sales at the Hilton property in Kansas City, she never encountered that issue. “Anything qualifies as a pet; however, it couldn’t exceed a 200-pound weight limit and I suppose if it were poisonous, it would have had to be assured that it had a crate or carrier that was locked. But generally, people only really travel with their dogs or cats”, Riddle added.
Maura Morton, Senior Director of Communications, at the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), writes that “AHLA does not have an umbrella policy regarding which pets can and cannot be accepted and how many,” So next time you want to travel with your pet, confirm in advance with each hotel what’s their pet policy.
Astrid Zeppenfeld is a writer and MM&E’s editor/business development manager from St. Louis.