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Tag: tourism

Disney resorts lighten up on dog policy

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Despite their efforts to appeal to families, Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts have always been about as kind and welcoming to one family member, i.e. dogs, as the Evil Queen was to Snow White.

Signs are that is changing — a bit.

A Walt Disney World blog, WDW News Today, reports that some areas of some resort hotels will become pet friendly in October — the kind of friendly you pay $50 to $75 a night extra for.

Walt Disney World started a pet friendly pilot program about a year ago. While that test program is ending, customer response has apparently been such that the resorts chain will designate pet friendly floors of certain hotels on a permanent basis.

The hotels (and their pet fees) will be:

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort; $50/night
Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort; $50/night
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort $75/night
Cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness; Resort $50/night

The blog post said there is potential for more resorts to be added.

Neither Disney World nor Disneyland allow pets inside the theme park other than service animals. Instead, visitors have been referred to the resort’s Best Friends Boarding Kennel.

Disneyland offers the same kennel option to visitors traveling with their pets.

Amid stagnant attendance, and realizing they were missing out on business, Disney officials approved the pilot program last year.

Under it, pet rooms were designated near outdoor pet walkways and green spaces. Guests received Pluto’s Welcome Kit at check-in, providing them with mats, bowls, disposable dog-waste bags, and other essentials. Door hangers were also made available so housekeeping knew when pets were inside rooms.

Asheville extending its appeal to tourists and visitors by taking aim at dogs

It doesn’t take a mathematical formula to determine the coolest, most eclectic mid- to large-sized town in North Carolina.

And even if it did — say, the per capita number of scenic mountain vistas, plus the number of didgeridoo instructors, plus the number of bookstores, plus the number of natural food establishments, plus the number of craft beer offerings, plus the number of spas that will rid you of toxins by applying something really gross to your body — the answer would still come out the same:

Asheville.

Travel publications will tell you it’s the hippest, most happenin’ city in North Carolina — and now the local tourism office (see video above) is working to persuade dogs of that as well.

If this piece in the Asheville Citizen-Times is any indication, Asheville’s businesses seem to be realizing the importance of attracting canine customers.

More hotels are catering to dogs, and more restaurants are opening their doors — or at least their patios — to them, often even offering special canine selections from the menu.

At Twisted Laurel, which has an expansive animal-friendly patio, humans can order a “Twisted Doggie” bowl for their pet, which includes protein choices like chicken, salmon or eggs, with rice and vegetables like sweet potatoes or broccoli.

The Hop Ice Creamery hosts Doggie Ice Cream Socials, with dog-friendly ice cream, scratch-made with peanut butter, bananas and fat-free yogurt, whipped together with no added sugar.

“We have anywhere between 5-20 dogs at a time, plus lots of kids and lots of excited people and dogs eating ice cream,” co-owner Greg Garrison said.

The Hop sells about 100 servings of dog ‘scream per week between its three locations.

Posana has a dog menu with house-made dog biscuit appetizers and entrees including bison burgers, and a dessert of bacon-soy ice cream.

Upcountry Brewing is dog friendly, inside and out. Bartenders keep treats behind the bar and the brewery has plans to fence in its backyard for canine guests.

And at the Battery Park Champagne Bar and Book Exchange, dogs are always welcome and Corky, a Bouvier des Flandres is usually there to greet them.

ppfEven food trucks are getting into the act.

The Purple People Feeder food truck specializes in hibachi-cooked food for humans, but it’s also serves up a dog bowl filled with steak fat, fried rice, peas and carrots, all for $3.

“I hate throwing away food, so I wanted to try to do something with our scraps,” said cook Lindsey Anderson. “We love dogs, and Asheville loves dogs, so we thought it’d be a good idea.”

Purple People Feeder serves about five of the dog meals when they cook at places where pets hang, like Pisgah Brewing Company, which the food truck visits every other Friday. You can check the food truck’s Facebook page to keep up with its schedule.

Something rotten in paradise

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In the Indonesian paradise of Bali, unsuspecting tourists are regularly being served dog meat — described as “chicken satay” — by restaurants and street vendors.

Eating dog meat is legal in Bali, and some locals consume it regularly, but according to a shocking report by ABC.net in Australia, visitors to the popular tourist destination are unwittingly buying it from vendors.

“Dog meat is essentially filtering into the tourist food chain,” said Lyn White, director of Animals Australia, which is campaigning to end the practice and recently conducted an investigation into it.

The Australian news program “7.30” reported last week on the investigation into how dogs are brutally caught, butchered and barbecued not far from the beaches visited by more than 1 million Australians every year, then served to those who don’t realize what they’re eating — though some seem to have suspicions.

Footage filmed by the investigator included this exchange between a vendor and a group of Australian tourists:

Vendor: “Satay just $1.”

Australian: “Mystery bag. What is, chicken?”

Vendor: “Satay.”

Australian: “Satay chicken, not dog?”

Vendor: “No, not dog.”

Australian: “I’m happy just as long as it’s not dog.”

bali3It was the same vendor who moments before had admitted to an investigator that what he was selling was dog meat.

The dogs are bludgeoned, shot, strangled, and sometimes poisoned with cyanide, leading to public health concerns.

It is possible for cyanide to be passed on to a human, even after a dog has been cooked.

While eating and selling dog meat is not illegal in Bali, the methods use to kill the dogs do violate animal cruelty laws, Animals Australia says.

The dog meat is being sold by vendors on the beach and in specialty restaurants. Locals know the letters RW on a restaurant mean dog meat is being served, but most tourists do not.

An undercover investigator for Animals Australia infiltrated the dog trade and spent four months documenting how it operates.

bali1You can see the ABC.net report here, but be warned it contains some graphic videos and images.

The Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) estimates about 70,000 dogs a year end up as dog meat.

It has documented 70 restaurants serving dog meat in Bali.

“We rescue them from the [dog] trader,” said Bagus Ndurah, a volunteer with BAWA. The organization is currently looking after about 150 dogs, he said.

Animals Australia is looking at ways to end the dog meat trade, including compensating those who earn a living from it in exchange for their promise to leave the business.

“We’ve given thought to that,” White sad. “I’ve even spoken to our management about possibility of compensation,” she said.

“This is not about laying blame. This is about unnecessary cruelty that puts the human health population at risk and is causing shocking animal cruelty.”

“We are certainly also willing to partner with the Bali government to bring about a positive solution here.”

(Top photos from Animals Australia; bottom photo by James Thomas, ABC News)

Beagle B&B is a sight to see

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During our year traveling across America in search of all things dog, Ace and I missed this place — a B&B in Idaho that resembles a giant beagle.

The Dog Bark Park Inn is located in the city of Cottonwood, population less than 1,000.

beagle2It serves as home base for husband and wife artists Dennis J. Sullivan and Frances Conklin, who opened the B&B in 2003.

Sullivan, a chain saw artist who specializes in dog designs, built the dog shaped unit, named Sweet Willy, and his smaller sidekick, Toby.

You can’t sleep inside Toby, but Sweet Willy contains two bedrooms and a bathroom, and rents for about $100 a night. (Pets are welcome for an extra $15 fee.)

The two-acre property also includes a sculpture garden featuring other works of art, including a 12-foot fire hydrant with a portable toilet inside, the Huffington Post reports.

It reminds me a bit of Dog Mountain, the park-like Vermont complex featuring the art of its creator, artist Stephen Huneck.

At the Dog Bark Park Inn, guests check in at the owners’ studio and gift shop, located nearby.

dennisandfrancesDennis is a self-taught chainsaw artist who has been carving for over 30 years. Frances joined him twenty years ago and also carves, according to the studio’s website.

They say their “big break” came in 1995 when their carvings were featured on QVC. With the fame came more hard work.

“We did nothing but carve wooden dogs for 18 months (our children barely remember seeing us during those days!), made what seemed like a bundle of money, invested it all in developing and building Dog Bark Park.”

bernese_mountain_dog_jpgTogether, they carve more than 60 different breeds and poses of dogs, and will take custom orders on request, carving dogs based on photos provided by owners.

In 2003 they received the Take Pride in Idaho Cultural Tourism Award for a large carved art exhibit depicting the story of Seaman, the dog who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploratory journey to the Pacific two hundred years ago.

(Photos: Dog Bark Park Inn)

Swiss resort bans selfies with Saint Bernards

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The Swiss mountain resort of Zermatt has banned Saint Bernards from being used in photo sessions with tourists.

The town’s council came to the decision after complaints by an animal protection organization that the dogs being used by two local businesses were being kept tied up without access to food and water and forced to carry children on their backs.

Posing with the dogs with the snow-cappped Matterhorn in the background has long been popular with tourists — even though St. Bernards are no longer commonly used in rescue operations. Nowadays, Alsatians are more often used to find lost skiers and avalanche survivors.

Still, Saint Bernards — with or without the whiskey barrel around their necks — remain a symbol of Swiss mountain heritage, and getting a photo with them is a must-have souvenir for many a tourist.

Swissinfo reports that at least two entrepreneurs are making a living supplying Saint Bernards for photo ops for tourists.

The Swiss Animal Protection Agency, which recently published a report on the dogs’ mistreatment, welcomed the decision ending the practice.

By banning the practice, Zermatt shows that “it loves these animals, and it will put an end to the contemptible and dangerous shows these dogs were made part of by being used as tourist props,” the organization said in a statement.

In March, the agency filed a legal complaint against the Saint Bernard owners, claiming that the dogs’ living and working conditions were abusive.

Concerns had been raised over the dogs being forced to pose for hours on end without moving and sometimes having to carry children on their backs. The dogs were also tied up for hours, not taken for walks and often went without food or water for long periods, the report stated.

Zermatt Mayor Christophe Buergin said the two local firms providing the service were in talks with tour operators to come up with alternative offerings for visitors to the Matterhorn, such as posing for photos with a person in a Saint Bernard costume, or posing with an alphorn, a traditional herdsman’s instrument.

The mayor says the practice of offering photos with Saint Bernards would be phased out by next winter, allowing the companies to honor existing contracts.

(Photo: Keystone, via Swissinfo.ch)

A shore thing: Wildwood may get dog beach, and just in time for Memorial Day

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Don’t know what took them so long, but Wildwood, N.J., officials appear headed to allowing some unrestricted beach access to dogs — unleashed and year-round.

Like many New Jersey beach towns, Wildwood has long had numerous rules when it comes to dogs on the beach, limiting them to winter months, off hours and requiring they be on leashes.

But two weeks ago the Wildwood City Commission — in an effort to boost tourism — voted unanimously to amend the city’s ordinance banningunleashed dogs from the beach and from cross over pathways on the boardwalk in the summer.

If the amendment is approved in a final vote scheduled for Wednesday, dogs would have year-round access — starting this Memorial Day — to a block and a half long, 190-yard-wide piece of beach in the city’s north end, probably around Poplar Avenue, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

It would be South Jersey’s first official year-round dog beach.

The designated dog beach in Wildwood would have water stations, poop bag stations and signs reminding owners to clean up after their pets.

“I’m going to bet that at the end of the summer, the public works crews will report that they had far less issues with doggie messes than they had with finding dirty disposable diapers left all over the beach,” said Peter Byron, a city commissioner, father of seven children and dog owner.

Some local motels — generally the already dog-friendly ones — are looking forward to the change.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing that the city is opening a dog beach,” said Bob Ferguson, who estimates 70 percent of the guests at his motel, the Rus Mar on Ocean Avenue, show up with dogs.

“It just says Wildwood is dog-friendly, which is a good thing for business.”

“Wildwood is not a fly-to, it’s a drive-to place. And people really want to be able to travel with the pets these days,” Commissioner Byron noted. “We think this will be a huge boost for tourism because visitors will have the chance to do that if they come to Wildwood.”

(Photo: By Tom Gralish / Philadelphia Inquirer)

100 slain sled dogs to be exhumed this week

With spring’s thaw, forensic experts will begin exhumation this week of a mass grave in British Coumbia as part of an investigation into the slaughter of 100 sled dogs last year.

Details of the killings last April surfaced in January after sled dog tour operator Robert Fawcett filed a disability claim saying he suffered post-traumatic stress from shooting and slitting the throats of about 100 dogs, under orders from his bosses.

The dogs were dumped — some still alive — in a mass grave north of Whistler.

The British Columbia SPCA announced Sunday it would begin a week-long investigation aimed at finding out whether the dogs were killed inhumanely, said Marcie Moriarty, the society’s animal cruelty investigation manager.

“The scope of this investigation is unprecedented in North America,” Moriarty told The Province. “We owe it to those 100 dogs buried in that grave to ensure that this kind of tragic incident never happens again in B.C.”

Exhuming the dogs wasn’t possible until now because of frozen ground.

Eight forensic experts will take part, including veterinarians, archaeologists and anthropologists from across North America,  many of whom have volunteered their time for the effort, Moriarty said.

After the mass killing was reported, a provincial task force was formed  to review the incident, leading to recommendations for tougher animal cruelty penalties and new regulations that required the sled dog tour industry to establish humane euthanization policies.

Moriarty said all the dogs would be given a respectful and humane burial after the investigation.