Just how pet friendly are we? How far are we behind the rest of Europe? Probably, your answers would be “not very” and “too far.” But to get a clearer picture you need to compare and contrast. Even though things have forward over the past few years we are still a good way beyond our more cultured neighbours.
So, I have recently spent a month of a European road trip and, of course, I took my dog, Toto, with me. Where I go, he goes.
Booking hotels or apartments meant that my first filter was “pet friendly” and the majority were indeed “looking forward to seeing for furry friend,” as they wrote. One German hotel went that step further and when we turned up our dog was the centre of attention. He had a bed waiting for him in the room, as well as biscuits, poop bags and even a letter addressed to him. He didn’t read it, if you were wondering, but mainly because it was in German.
A bed, bowl and welcome message for our dog in Germany - Photo - Mark Thomas
But the Germans didn’t have a monopoly of being pet friendly. Toto went with us in almost all restaurants, cafés and shops. Again he was the star of the show. The general organisation for our companion was first class.
Toto on a foggy English morning
One example, and there were many, was the fact that on the check-in for the Channel Tunnel there was a special area for pets to check-in with their own fenced playground and toys, water and some treats. But that wasn’t the end of the story, there was even a separate fenced area for “females in season” so that they weren’t bothered by males. They had thought this out from every angle.
Not only were there bowls of water outside every restaurant, every establishment, but there were special beaches and parks.
Designer lable dog coats and accessories (OK, maybe this is a little too much) - Photo - Mark Thomas
So, here comes the compare and contrast. In Milan there are 1,291 properties listed on booking.com and 466 are “pet friendly”, in Berlin there are 594 properties and massive 337 accept pets and in Salzburg there are 174 accommodation options and 99, well over half, welcome pets. Now, how many pet friendly hotels are there in Dubrovnik, any idea? Out of 1,312 properties (yes, more than all the other three major European cities, but that’s another column) there are only 153 are animal friendly. And of the 43 hotels listed just 9 welcomed pets.
Would I travel to Dubrovnik with my pet on holiday? Probably not.
First I’d have problems finding a place to stay and secondly the choice of pet beaches is not a choice at all, basically one! Incredible! Would I be able to take my dog inside a café or restaurant, again probably not! And if I did would he be welcomed as he was in Bavaria, one more time, probably not!
An English dog "pub" and an Italian room with a view - Photo - Mark Thomas
Now one thing you rarely see, especially in the UK, are street cats. As most of them are sleeping on their blanket at home. Clearly this isn’t the same as Dubrovnik, and yes I know that cats had their place in the Republic and that they have their “job” in a city that it pretty much floating on water. But the general care of cats, well let’s just be diplomatic and say that there is room for improvement.
And the cats of the Old City have just hit the headlines after the 17-year-old Anastazija had to be rehoused after being evicted for her old home in front of the Rector’s Palace. Now, hats off to the always creative Srđan Kera for producing a masterpiece of a new home, but did we really have to get to this stage?
As he rightly said “She could be a trademark of this locality, because cats used to be on ships of the Republic of Dubrovnik for certain reasons.” Let’s hope that the house, and indeed Anastazija, stay right where they are. I’m sure she’ll be a hit with the tourists, especially in her new home. If indeed she is ever allowed to stay in her new home.
Far too often pets, or rather animals, are kept only if they have some kind of “use.” The number of dogs I see caged in awful conditions breaks my heart. When we call ourselves a “city of culture” we clearly aren’t thinking of the culture towards pets.
I even find myself agreeing with a Frenchman! “The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs” – Charles de Gaulle.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to