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Arguing The Case For Pet-Friendly Hotels

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Arguing The Case For Pet-Friendly Hotels

October 21
20:07 2013
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There’s an old joke I heard again recently that makes me smile every time I hear it: To work out who loves you more – the wife or the dog – simply conduct this easy experiment: Lock both of them in the boot of your car for three hours, and see who gives you the best welcome when you return.

While this might seem a tad extreme – cruel, even – (although providing an open window can help the dog) it does illustrate a perfectly valid fact of life: That no matter who you are, where you go, who you work with, or how late you end up being for dinner, your dog will always welcome you like a hero when you come home.

Alas, as I have found to my detriment on more than one occasion over the last few years, the same cannot be said… well, you know where I’m going with this. Anyway, here’s the point: For those who keep dogs as pets, dealing with them when you go off on holiday – or even just a weekend break – can be fraught with complications: Is there a space for them in the boarding kennels? Will they be okay while we’re away? Why, last time, was the kennel bill higher than my hotel bill? I know a few people who would happily trade their own children if they could take their dog on holiday instead, but the hassle associated with finding pet-friendly pubs and hotels in Scotland usually means a trip to the kennels as a last resort. But even this isn’t always the cheap, easy or preferred option.

Some establishments, meanwhile, have cottoned on to the fact that a policy of welcoming well-behaved dogs onto their premises will mean the animals’ owners are more inclined to spend freely during their stay. It also represents a fine opportunity for the hotels to charge impressively extravagant additional fees to put up with the mangy animals during their stay. Indeed, you don’t even have to have them in the hotel; a recent enquiry to a well-known five-star resort in central Scotland revealed a £70 kennel fee for one night. Seventy quid! Hell, I’d sleep in a bloody kennel at that price. One can only imagine the facilities available to the lucky mutts who get to stay there: Unlimited fillet steaks, 12-dog eiderdown duvets, under-paw heating and Animal Planet streaming permanently on cat-screen TVs. However, contrary to certain establishments which have been – sometimes justifiably – accused of wildly enthusiastic overcharging their human guests (think £8.00 for two slices of toast with butter – I won’t say where), this is one cash cow (dosh dog?) that should probably be embraced by hospitality operators. In these troubled times of strangled margins, double-dip sound bites and grave uncertainty of what lies around the next quarter, fleecing desperate dog owners could prove to be an easy way of upping your business’s income, with minimal effort or capital expenditure. All it would take to insure yourself against disaster is a clear set of rules, a sizeable cash deposit from the owner, and a decent Hoover. Indeed, many proprietors are already promoting their hotels as dog-friendly, and of course they still get to make the rules. In some higher end establishments, the manager will insist you put the dog in the car during dinner so that it’s not left unattended in the room while you’re out. Seems fair. And it’s not just hotels that could do with the extra income; many pubs, too, are missing a trick. At present, some bars welcome dogs (albeit in confined areas), while others ban them outright, snottily turning their owners away with a patronising ‘Can ye no read the thign? Ith thays: No. Dogth. Allowed. Ith Health & Thafety.’ This clichéd and, as it turns out, miserably inaccurate fob-off typically comes from a self-important, pious wee meat head who wouldn’t know a health and safety directive if it peed on his leg. To counter this, I would advocate challenging the moron with some simple questions concerning local environmental health policies, and the skewed logic of banning everything except guide dogs: ‘Presumably that blind man’s Labrador was sheep-dipped just before it entered your premises, hmm?’ Or, if the barman’s being really snotty, try being deliberately facetious: ‘Right. If you don’t allow dogs on health grounds, I’m off to get Colin, my iguana. Don’t look at me like that – your sign says nothing about herbivorous lizards.’ The official position is surprising. When I contacted the beloved Health & Safety Executive, I received the following reply: ‘The HSE has not produced any guidance relating to dogs in pubs or restaurants. Any potential risks should be considered in the employer’s risk assessment.’ However you choose to deal with it, one thing’s for sure; with over eight million dogs in the UK, many of them belonging to dedicated, responsible, slightly loony owners, there is evidently a very large gap in the market for canine accommodation, and hoteliers and publicans could stand to gain substantially by tapping into it. And the best bit? If all these dog fans are that keen for their pets to stay with them, they won’t care much about the price you charge… Being in the doghouse has never looked more appealing.

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Despite being a nation of supposed dog lovers, most hotels and guesthouses still refuse to allow dogs on the premises, but in doing so these hoteliers are denying themselves a lucrative sideline

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Catering Scotland

Catering Scotland

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