Are Disney hotels goofy to let dogs stay in rooms?
Gabrielle Russon | Orlando Sentinel | October 23, 2017 3:51pm
Oct. 22--When Angela Rupp's daughter goes anywhere near dogs, the allergies kick in that turn her eyes as red as a Solo cup.
With dogs now allowed at four Walt Disney World resorts, the high school English teacher from Buffalo said she worries how dander and fur could hurt her 8-year-old.
But on the other side, Maria Grogan is delighted.
If the New Jersey library assistant is on vacation, there's a good chance Brooklyn -- her well-behaved chihuahua -- is by her side. She hates kenneling the aging dog who needs extra care and feels more like a family member.
"People don't leave their children at home," Grogan said. "We don't leave our dog at home."
Disney World, which has about 28,000 hotel rooms, will convert 250 of those into dog-friendly abodes in a yearlong pilot program. Disney said it's too early to speculate if more hotels could be added in the future.
"We can guarantee that guests who prefer, will not be placed in a dog-friendly room or a dog-friendly hotel," Disney said in a statement.
Only rooms on certain floors or areas will allow dogs, Disney said, adding, "We have a thorough cleaning process for our rooms."
Universal Orlando Resort's hotels have been pet-friendly since they opened, said spokesman Tom Schroder, adding all of its affiliated hotels, except for the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, allow dogs. Offerings include hotel chefs working with a veterinarian to make gourmet room-service meals for animals. Disney's pet welcome package will include a bowl, placemat, an ID-tag and a map to pet relief areas.
Hotels catering to pet owners is nothing new, said Diego Bufquin, an assistant hospitality professor at University of Central Florida.
In the past five or so years, Bufquin said he has noticed entire hotel chains becoming pet-friendly, although some may have weight restrictions or limit the number of dogs in a room.
The pet-friendly policies exist at the luxury-end stays, like the Four Seasons, Kimpton Hotels or the Ritz-Carlton, down to the economy rooms in Motel 6, he said.
Many places offer dog bowls and dog beds in the rooms or train concierges to give tips on pet-friendly restaurants or good parks to visit in the area, Bufquin said.
"It's a huge industry and generates a lot of revenue for some hotels," said Bufquin, as the hospitality industry capitalizes on how much people love their pets.
On social media, many Disney regulars recently jumped in to debate.
Some voiced their concerns for about what happens if dogs don't stop barking or about small children with fears of big dogs. Others argued most pet owners are responsible, and dogs typically sleep all day anyway, so little will change at the resorts.
Donna Kuczwara was worried enough that she said she hasn't rebooked her stay at Port Orleans Riverside Resort after Hurricane Irma canceled her plans because of concerns over the dogs.
With her dog allergies, "I can't breathe. My lungs close up. My face swells," said Kuczwara, a certified public accountant from the Chicago area who is moving to Lakeland.
Disney is accommodating with her food allergies, Kuczwara said, so she doesn't understand why they were not more sensitive about people with pet allergies, too.
Disney's fees will range from $50 a night up to $75 to cover cleaning fees at the four hotels that will have dog-friendly rooms in certain areas or floors. The resorts are Port Orleans Riverside, Art of Animation, Fort Wilderness and the Yacht Club.
Universal Studios' hotels charge $50 per day for pets with a cap at $150 total.
"It's a lot of money, but they have the demand," Bufquin said, pointing out that hotels including La Quinta Inn and Suites don't charge extra for cats and dogs.
Usually, only a small number of guests bring their dogs, so the hotels aren't overrun with them, Bufquin said.
Grogan pictured her stay at a Disney resort as going on rides for half a day and then returning to let Brooklyn out before venturing out again later.
"It's not like this is the first hotel to do this," she said. "People are going crazy. They think dogs are going to be running around like a circus."
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