|By Liz Benston, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 12, 2011--When Mike Valles travels to Las Vegas for business several times a year, he brings his four buddies -- Ivy, Harley, Honey and Cosby -- with him.
Although small and well-behaved, they're not welcomed at many Las Vegas hotels. That's why Valles, who owns a chain of high-end furniture stores in Los Angeles, stays at the pet-friendly Rumor hotel.
"I was thrilled when I found out," said Valles, who -- because his pets can come with him -- is coming more often to Las Vegas. "I'm always thinking of my kids, my dogs, when planning for my trips."
Rumor, which hosts dog-friendly parties that combine DJs and cocktails with doggy costume contests and other canine performances, is among more than a dozen hotels in Las Vegas that began accommodating dogs in the past year, following a national trend among hotels to allow pets. These include the eight major resorts owned by Caesars Entertainment -- cavernous, high-traffic buildings that have figured out creative ways to allow pets in rooms closest to outdoor "relief areas."
Most of Las Vegas' dog-friendly hotel policies are relatively new -- and largely unadvertised.
Travelers can expect to see more dogs populating area hotels in the coming years, said Terri Baptiste, owner of Cupid's Pet Service in Las Vegas.
"This will take awhile to catch on. But as people find out, it's going to be huge," said Baptiste, who employs on-call dog sitters and walkers that work with area hotels.
The cost of bringing a pet to Las Vegas starts with the daily fees most hotels charge, usually at least $25. Many hotels also charge one-time cleaning fees of $100 to deep clean rooms, including shampooing carpets and furniture.
But hotels say welcoming pets is a matter of necessity, not the chance for more revenue.
The Travel Industry Association of America estimates at least 30 million people travel with their pets each year -- a big market many hotels can't afford to ignore.
Rumor's owner, the Siegel Group, has adopted pet-friendly policies at all of the smaller hotels it has acquired in the valley, including the off-Strip hipster hangout Artisan and Gold Spike.
At Caesars Entertainment, the decision to welcome dogs came from a management strategy session, where higher-ups saw it as the sensible thing to do. Still, the idea didn't go down easy.
"People were nervous about what was going to happen," said Kevin Donnelly, director of hotel operations at Caesars Palace. "Would there be chaos? Would dogs be tearing up the furniture?"
Such concerns were overblown, as the dogs who stay with Caesars tend to be well-behaved and have not disrupted other guests, Donnelly said.
Dogs are welcome in some of the company's nicest rooms. Pet-friendly rooms are clustered together for ease of housekeeping and because people with pets seem more tolerant of others' animals. The pet-friendly rooms are located as close as possible to exits to avoid the need for pet owners to traipse through the casino with their dogs.
At Caesars Palace, pets can relieve themselves on a plot of artificial grass tucked to the side of the Augustus Tower valet, a short walk from hotel elevators and steps from luxury cars and VIPs. Across the street at Flamingo, pet owners can walk from hotel elevators to a large, outdoor courtyard with walking paths and a relief area that will soon feature a doggy water fountain.
The company's in-room amenities for dogs -- dog bowls, a bag of dog biscuits and a carrying case filled with doggy bags -- still look out of place, as do doggy door hangers and signs near elevators informing guests of the possible presence of dogs. And there's something askew about the sight of a dog walking through the marble lobby of Caesars Palace and down a carpeted hallway lined with chandeliers and topiaries. The carnival of Las Vegas, after all, is a human one.
After a few months with the pet policy, employees and customers are no longer fazed, Donnelly said.
"You walk by a dog, and you don't bat an eyelash," he said.
Caesars Entertainment properties require customers to sign a two-page "dog waiver" of do's and don'ts as well as provide emergency contact information. (Dogs may be left unattended in rooms so long as their owners can be reached by cellphone and their pets are in kennels that are available for rent.)
Such risks appear to be paying off. In Las Vegas, the company is booking about 1,200 room nights a month for guests with pets.
Not all hotels are embracing the pet trend. Station Casinos' Green Valley Ranch Resort and Red Rock Resort discontinued a pet-friendly policy two years ago because of customer complaints ranging from barking dogs left in rooms to the unwelcome sight of dogs padding through well-appointed lobbies and other public areas.
Having dogs on site was "very disruptive," Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson said. "When you're paying a little more for a luxury resort you want the whole experience that comes with it."
For a $100 cleaning fee per trip, the company's other hotels around town accommodate pets -- but only because most of those customers have friends or family in Las Vegas -- homes where visitors can drop off their pets so they're not cooped up in a hotel room, Nelson said.
The Hotel, a luxury hotel tower attached to Mandalay Bay, is the only Las Vegas property owned by MGM Resorts International that allows dogs.
It offers a room service menu for dogs ("Backyard Delight" features hamburger, potatoes, zucchini, carrots and apples), kennels of various sizes for rent and a policy that allows for up to two dogs weighing up to 100 pounds combined.
The property's layout, with a short distance between hotel rooms and a side exit to an outdoor dog run, makes it easier to accommodate dogs than the company's other Las Vegas resorts, MGM Resorts spokeswoman Yvette Monet said.
Four Seasons has allowed pets up to 25 pounds since the property's opening on the Strip 12 years ago, Marketing Director Kim Hoffman said.
But the cost can run up quickly: Guests who leave pets unattended in rooms are charged $50 per hour, an effective deterrent to barking dogs, she said.
To see more of the Las Vegas Sun go to http://www.lasvegassun.com
Copyright (c) 2011, Las Vegas Sun
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com. NYSE:SCI,NASDAQ:TWGP,