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Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 10.35.32 AMBy Peter Huston

Pets are a huge part of many people’s lives these days. Pets often are a “member” of the family. There’s doggie day care and pet resorts for when their owners travel. But, we see more and more people wanting to travel with their pet, especially dogs, than ever before.

A handful of “Pet-friendly” hotels and attractions are actively welcoming pet owners with special deals and overnight opportunities. But it is not easy to bring your pet along on vacation. Pet owners need to do their research to find pet friendly destinations, attractions and accommodations.

Websites have been set up to help with the navigation of pet travel choices. There are dozens of pet sites that can assist with everything from pet walkers to resort reservations. Some of the more note worthy sites include;,,, and my favorite crowd sourced site, which allows pet owners to post pet friendly experiences and freely exchange information without being peer reviewed. provides pet owners with pet care givers and dog walkers by locality. This past summer the chamber of commerce was contacted by, because they were looking for possible pet care providers on South Bass Island. We posted several requests, but interestingly there was no one that came forward to volunteer their name or services. (This is probably a second job in the making for an industrious teenager or summer employee looking for extra work.)

There are lodging places that advertise their willingness to have pets. Often with pet lodging there may be rules like only one pet per room, a size limit of 20 pounds and a special deposit and cleaning fee that is above the standard pricing structure.

Bringing your pet to dinner or out to a bar is an even greater challenge. Currently there’s a bill in the Ohio State House that would allow restaurants and bar owners to have some discretion as to whether they can permit pets in their out door areas. Ohio Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township, introduced the bill that would allow restaurants to welcome dogs onto their patios as long as they abide by health department standards for cleanliness and food safety.

Dogs would still be prohibited from all indoor spaces – with the exception of service animals. And businesses could still ban pets on their properties if they choose. Many pet owners point to European acceptance of pets in restaurants as the “right thing to do”. In truth EU laws give discretion to the proprietor, but that proprietor must provide adequate controls to keep pets from being in food prep and delivery areas.

One caveat to pet law restrictions is Individuals with disabilities. states “many people with disabilities require the use of a service animal throughout their daily lives. Both federal and state laws offer protections for the use of service animals in various situations, including places of public accommodation, employment, housing, education, transportation and air travel, and state and local governments. “

Some pet owners have taken steps to have their pets “officially” registered as service animals. It appears that this is a gray area in the law that encourages unverified registration. Sites like provide free portals to register your animal and other sites sell pet owners “Service Animal” pet clothing.

Ohio has two laws on the books that allow pets into hotels and restaurants according to legal advocacy group and they will help pet owners that feel they have been discriminated against. Ohio has a specific standard for service pets, under state code 955.011 and registration for guide, leader, hearing or support dogs to be free and permanent.

What does this all mean for pet owners and tourism? The potential for growth in the pet tourism sector is quantifiable and many businesses see it as an important new demographic. Other proprietors see the need to have pet free, allergen free spaces for their customers. Responsible pet owners and their pet’s behavior can influence access and encourage businesses to be pet friendly, the alternative would be a dog gone shame.

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