More rentals, hotels opening doors to pet owners
To many rental property and hotel owners, pets have long been considered a four-letter word.
But as more owners are seeking services that accommodate four-legged friends, the industries are loosening the leash when it comes to welcoming animals.
“The mindset used to be, ‘Pets are bad,' but it doesn't have to be that way,” says Paul Bellantoni, regional vice president of Morgan Communities, with rental properties all over the Pittsburgh region. “You just have to figure out how to make it work.”
At Morgan Communities' properties, that means dog parks, pet events, “doggy plunge” days at the pool, pet parades and parties, ice-cream socials for dogs, treats in the main office and waste stations.
Enthusiasm for embracing pet-friendliness varies depending on geography, Bellantoni says. Southern and western states are more accepting, whereas the northern part of the country is somewhat lacking, he says.
“There's a stigma that it costs a lot of money, that pets do a lot of damage, that it's bothersome to other renters,” he says. “The majority of properties we purchase, we change the pet policy. Some are very restrictive.”
The vast majority of renters are pet owners today, Bellantoni says, and alienating them is bad business.
For Elaine and Angel Acosta, the pet-friendliness at Rochester Village at Park Place sealed the deal when they were looking to move back to the Pittsburgh area from Denver.
“We started looking at rentals and saw that nobody wants to rent to people with pets,” Elaine Acosta says. “My dog is like my child. He is a member of the family, and we're not going to give him up.”
Cochise, the family's 90-pound playful and protective Vizsla, feels right at home in their Cranberry apartment. He loves stopping for treats in the main office and dresses up for the community's annual fall festival pet parade — this year as a ladybug. His owners appreciate the waste stations that allow them to go for walks without lugging around all the necessary disposal items and enjoy socializing with their neighbors, the majority of whom also have pets.
Property management “makes it really accessible and easy for you,” Elaine Acosta says.
The key, Bellantoni says, is to create a balance so pet people and non-owners can coexist. Morgan Communities hosts events that are pet-friendly and fun for those without pets. They prohibit any breeds deemed “dangerous” by insurance providers and any animal that is “an intrusion to the peaceful enjoyment” of the property.
Pet owners are charged a monthly fee, which varies depending on the property but averages around $30 a month in the Pittsburgh region. That covers any damage repair or cleaning issues, though Bellantoni says those aren't as problematic as one might think.
“We find that pet owners are really responsible and take care of things on their own,” he says. “They're not letting their pets go crazy and tear up the carpet. They're not destroying our property. Occasionally, we do have someone who causes a problem, but it's like any other issue. We deal directly with that individual, and it's a done deal.”
Allowing pets also creates a more social environment, Bellantoni says, which is a goal among property owners.
“People congregate on the walking trails, in common areas — we see it all the time, and it's great,” he says. “One of our goals is to build a community within the community, so when we see that, we know it's working.”
Hotels are becoming more accommodating of guests with pets, too. Emily Kwong, director of front office at the Fairmont Pittsburgh, says guests often are surprised to learn that the luxury hotel allows animals. There are no restrictions — they've welcomed everything from bull mastiffs to Great Danes — and there is a $25 a night cleaning fee. During a typical weekend, about 10 percent of guests come with pets, she says.
“More and more, it seems pets are becoming an integral part of families' lives,” she says. “It's nice to be able to welcome the whole family, to build memories with them and really be part of the growth of their pet.”
In addition to the special amenities available for pets — dogs beds of all sizes, treats made by the in-house pastry chef — the Fairmont has its own canine ambassador, Edie, a 5-year-old boxer-Labrador retriever mix who's always ready to welcome guests, accompany them on walks and attend community events. Occasionally, she's joined by a guest's pet while their owners take some time for themselves.
“We offer them time to leave their pet with us for a couple of hours. We're well-equipped to take care of them or walk them to Triangle Park,” Kwong says.
A few blocks away at Kimpton's Hotel Monaco, everything from the Great Dane statue outside the entrance to the dog-themed decor in some of the rooms lets pet owners know they're welcome.
“We really think of the pet as an extension of the guests' family,” general manager Rob Mallinger says. “We offer welcome amenities like handmade dog treats, dog beds and silver dog bowls. We want them to feel not just that it's OK, but that we're actually excited about it. We're pet-friendly, not pet-tolerant. We don't charge a deposit. We don't care what breed or species it is. As long as it can behave when in the room, we offer amenities for any pet.”
To avoid bothering any guests who do not care to be around animals, the hotel devotes two floors specifically to guests with pets. The hotel's resident Dane, the statue created in honor of Pennsylvania's state dog, dons different outfits from time to time in celebration of special events and holidays.
In today's hotel industry, Mallinger says, ignoring the needs of pets is the same as ignoring the needs of people.
“It's nice to see more hotels doing what they think the guest actually wants,” he says.
Rachel Weaver is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.