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A dog's life

Who wouldn't want a dog's life? Dogs these days are being pampered in ways unheard of. Read more about pooch privileges.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2007 17:05 IST
Dana Ford

At the Beverly Hills Hotel, dogs are greeted by name, served food prepared by world-class chefs and walked in tA dogshe hotel's luxurious gardens.

Yes, it's a dog life, and it's not so bad.

From hotels to airlines, the travel industry is opening its doors to four-legged guests, said Kim Salerno, founder of TripswithPets.com, one of a growing number of Web sites that cater to people that travel with their animals.

"Pets really are, now more than ever, considered part of the family and when they go on trips, people don't want to leave their family members behind," said Salerno.

Her Web site lists more than 20,000 pet-friendly accommodations in the United States and provides links to different airlines' pet travel policies.

Another Web site, www.bringyourpet.com, lists pet-friendly accommodations from beach houses to hotels and penthouses, and estimates that up to 36 million U.S. households travel with their pets a year.

Alberto Robles, the head bell captain at the Beverly Hills Hotel, said he is responsible for greeting guests' "little designer dogs" by name.

"They have to be treated the same as children. We take care of our guests and we take care of their pets," said Robles, adding many dogs travel with their own luggage, clothes and jewellery.

The services for pampered pooches are limitless. Another Web site, www.petsonthego, lists features at 30,000 properties, including puppy pagers and pet menus.

Boston's boutique Nine Zero hotel has a special room service menu for pooches provided by a gourmet treat boutique for dogs, Polka Dog Bakery, which even has a low-calorie menu for discerning dogs watching their figures.

New York's Ritz-Carlton, Central Park, has a V.I.P. (Very Important Pooch) package that includes ultra-chic pet carriers, 22-karat gold plated identification tags, aromatherapy treatments, and home-baked dog treats.

Figures from market research company Packaged Facts show people in the United States spend $47 billion a year on their pets. Spending on premium pet products, or "functional pampering," is a fast growing share of total spending.

Between 1995 and 2005, pet owners with incomes of $70,000 or more tripled their pet expenditures to $18.6 billion from $5.2 billion, which the researcher partly attributed to the success of marketers tapping into this market by providing more high-end products and services for animals.

"Products for pets are being made to resemble those for humans," said Tatjana Meerman, the publisher of Packaged Facts, in a statement.

Salerno often travels with her two dogs and says the experience bonds her to her pets -- an experience that she, and others, are willing to pay for.

Most hotels and airlines charge guests with pets a fee ranging from $20-$200. Some have restrictions, depending on the type and the size of the pet. Others offer grooming, special food and walking services -- all at an additional cost.

"The businesses out there, they understand this trend and see what kind of money people are spending on their pets," said Salerno, who expects the trend toward pet-friendly businesses to continue.

"People think differently about their pets. It's not the days of old when pets were just an animal."