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Come, sit, stay with your pet
Pop quiz for people with pets:
Where in Beverly Hills should you stay if you want your "guest dogs" greeted by name upon arrival and "personally escorted to their rooms"?
What airline announced last summer that it was developing a Frequent Feline club that would allow cats to accrue "pet miles," redeemable for "special treatments and pampering weekends"?
And which hotel chain trots out room service menus for pets, with special entrees for vegetarian animals and dishes that "have been developed and approved by a licensed veterinarian
to help pets deal with travel stress"?
The answers: the Beverly Hills Hotel, Virgin Atlantic and Loews Hotels. But don't worry if you didn't get the answers. These days, keeping track of pet-related specials is difficult. Take hotels. Chain hotels may be managed by the same company but owned by different people. That explains why the Hilton in Del Mar allows pets but the Hilton in La Jolla, 15 miles south, does not.
Books and websites can help you find pet-friendly lodging listings, airline guidelines, recreation suggestions and other tips. Though some of these resources may offer information that's out of date, they can be good starting points, especially for accommodations.
Then confirm directly with hotels and ask lots of questions: Does the hotel allow pets only of a certain size? Do owners pay any flat fees, per-night surcharges or higher deposits? Are pets and their owners relegated to certain units, such as first-floor or smoking rooms? Is there a leash-free area nearby where dogs can play?
Some places to look for more information:
Hotel websites. The Wyndham (www.wyndham.com) and Marriott (www.marriott.com) hotel families allow pets to be used as a criterion when searching for accommodations. The Kimpton group of boutique hotels, long known for being pet friendly, maintains a web page of its promotions (www.kimptongroup.com/news23.html). Starwood's site doesn't include such features, but last year the company announced it would allow pets at all North American hotels in its Sheraton and Westin chains (at no extra cost) and W Hotels (for $25 per stay). They join other companies, from budget-minded Motel 6 to upscale Loews, that allow well-behaved animals at all properties.
Third-party websites. Some reservations sites such as Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) and Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) also can sort out hotels that allow pets. Some specialty sites such as Quikbook (www.quikbook.com), which focuses on mid- and upscale lodgings, have added such a feature. Quikbook users can click on "Take a ShortCut" and choose a destination from the "Pet-Friendly Hotels" drop-down menu.
"The Dog Lover's Companion" series of guidebooks from Avalon Publishing. Nine titles focus on different geographic regions, including California, Seattle and New England. The books review lodgings as well as beaches and parks.
Wynne Benti's "Favorite Dog Hikes in and Around Los Angeles." The book's second edition was published last year by Spotted Dog Press. It describes 155 routes, including difficulty ratings.
DogGone Newsletter, a Colorado-based bimonthly newsletter with information on lodging and recreation, largely in the West. An annual subscription is $25; (888) 364-8728. Information and links are at http://www.doggonefun.com .
The site http://www.dogfriendly.com has a free directory of U.S. lodgings as well as lists of beaches, parks, restaurants and kennels.
The site http://www.petsonthego.com also has a free directory of lodgings, but verify policies with hotels, because some of the suggestions (the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego, for example) are incorrect.
California State Parks' dog Web page http://www.parks.ca.gov/?pageid=21305 (or go to http://www.parks.ca.gov , click on "Site Index" and then "Dogs") offers general guidelines about taking Fido to a park, as well as a list of beaches where he is permitted to play.
Other Web resources. Try http://www.travelpets.com , http://www.pets welcome.com, http://www.petfriendlytravel.com and http://www.fidofriendly.com . At the last, you can find information on the quarterly Fido Friendly, "the travel magazine for your and your dog." An annual subscription costs $18; (888) 881-5861.
The U.S. Department of Transportation lists guidelines for transporting live animals at airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/publications/animals.htm.
Airline websites. Most airlines detail their pet policy somewhere on their website, often under labels such as "travel information," "travel support" or "special needs." Some airlines, such as Southwest, will not transport any pets. Others, including American and United, allow dogs, cats and birds to travel with passengers in the cabin; pets also can be transported as checked baggage or as unaccompanied cargo.
If you can't find information online, call to find out an airline's restrictions about the size, age and temperament of animals, as well as rules about the size and construction of kennels. Transport also may be contingent on factors such as weather (high temperatures pose a threat) and availability. Virgin Atlantic's Frequent Feline club, announced in May by Chairman Richard Branson, hasn't yet gotten off the ground. But no matter. You can treat your pet to a drive instead — perhaps to Miami, where a butler at the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove can escort Fido to the groomer for a makeover, followed by "poochie sushi." Or perhaps drive to New York, where five W Hotels can arrange in-room rubdowns from "a licensed dog massage therapist." Ah, the ruff life.