Chris Baker runs the pet-free Shropshire Hills B&B in Ludlow with his wife Linda.
Here he blogs about why guests aren’t always keen on furry friends at hotels and B&Bs.
When we opened Shropshire Hills Bed and Breakfast just over two years ago we had two key decisions to make. Do we accept children and do we allow guests to bring pets? The first question was difficult as we like children, but the second was much easier.
We had an unfortunate experience in a hotel in Cornwall a few years back. Well it said “hotel” on the sign outside but it could more accurately have been described as a boarding kennel with rooms for owners.
We felt out of place as the only guests minus a canine. It was not so much squeezing past a huge hound on a narrow stairwell but more the vestiges of the hairy mutt that had previously occupied the room.
We raised the issue with the receptionist who shrugged and empathised. It was a frequent complaint from guests and housekeeping staff she confessed but the owner insisted guests should be able to bring their pets.
Examining the websites of other B&Bs in Shropshire, I discovered that the vast majority either had a pet of their own and/or allowed guests to bring pets.
I considered amending WC Fields’s famous quote of “Never work with animals and children” to “Never stay with animals and children” and our USP (unique selling point) could be that we are both child and pet free.
On the subject of USPs, I noted that a B&B in Shropshire claimed its USP was a dog that growled if it was not petted enough. This formed a reply to a “terrible” review on TripAdvisor from a guest who disliked Growler’s attention.
In a response to another review the B&B proprietors were aggrieved that Growler, or Basil to give him his real name, had been called a pitbull by some guests who feared for the safety of small children staying at the B&B.
The owners pointed out that Basil was in fact a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and was perfectly safe – (although there was a story in the newspapers about a Staffordshire biting the head off a pet Pomeranian).
Our first year in business suggested that there were plenty of customers who did not want to share their stay with pets.
Some were allergic whilst others did not want to be greeted by a pawing pet spoiling their new slacks with the disregarding owner proclaiming “he’s only being friendly!” or the chilling experience of an unannounced feline caress on legs under the table.
That’s not to mention the eau de dog that pervades some establishments and to which owners have become desensitised.
There is a good reason why an estate agent’s heart sinks on discovering pets in a soon to be marketed property. Finally as one our guests, Ian, so eloquently put it “You don’t want to spend £100 a night to have a dog sniffing your crotch.”
Later in the year, with no guests for a couple of days we decided on a night away. Wise from our experience in Cornwall, I was disappointed to find that our preferred hotel was “pet friendly” but at least it was prominently displayed on the website along with their pet friendly policy.
The policy reassuringly informs guests that: “The hotel has a procedure in the eventuality of a flea problem resulting from pets staying in the bedrooms.”
I pondered as to how they know that the dog in room 101 has forgotten to pack its fleas. Is housekeeping specially trained in flea detection or do they ask for the room number of any guest who is observed scratching more than usual?
Having illustrated the case for guests preferring pet free accommodation, I realise that there are many people (perhaps a majority) who enjoy the company of pets and who wish to bring their pets with them on vacation, especially in great walking countryside like the Shropshire Hills.
For pet owning guests a quick web search lists many hotels and B&Bs that welcome pets and some will even throw in a couple of complimentary Bonios. Indeed many directories have symbols to indicate that pets are welcome.
So my plea, on behalf of those seeking a stay in a pet free environment: How about travel articles in newspapers highlighting such establishments and directories and travel agents making it easier to find pet free hotels and B&Bs perhaps by introducing a “pet free” symbol.
After all if you are paying £100 a night…
Chris’s B&B overlooks fields