A Doggone Good Primer to Disney’s Dog-Friendly Hotels

 

Is It Really Just for Dogs?

Sorry Figaro! At this time, the policy only applies to dogs–not cats, birds, ferrets, gerbils, snakes, miniature horses, potbellied pigs, or other pet members of families. There are no breed or weight restrictions when it comes to the dogs permitted, but only two dogs per room will be allowed in the special dog-friendly rooms.

This doesn’t mean that the entire resort is a dog-accessible area, however. Pools (and pool bars), gift shops, restaurants, recreational areas, and most other public spaces are still dog-free zones.

How Much Does This Cost and Where Is It Provided?

During the test period, only four hotels are offering this service and it does come at an added cost: Art of Animation ($50/night), The Cabins at Fort Wilderness ($50/night), Port Orleans Riverside ($50/night), and Yacht Club ($75/night).

What All Is Included?

The nightly cost covers the additional cleaning needed for a dog-friendly room, but you do get a few extras as well. At check-in you receive a mat, bowls, courtesy waste bags, puppy pads, walking maps (showing you where you can take your dogs at that resort), a pet ID tag, and a dog-specific Do Not Disturb sign.

 Does My Dog Need to be Leashed?

Yes–any time your dog is not in the room, the dog must be leashed or kept in a carrier. If your dog is off-leash, or if your dog is not well-behaved, your dog will not be allowed to stay.

What Paperwork/Vaccinations Do I Need for My Dog?

Although Disney will likely not check your dog’s paperwork at check in, they can ask for your paperwork at any time. Florida state law requires a current rabies certificate for each dog. In addition, if you are traveling in from another state, you MUST have an Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection issued no more than 30 days before your date of travel. You can get those from your current vet in your home state. Also, if you are traveling through other states on the way here, you’ll need to check each state’s requirements for documentation to bring your dog across state lines. For instance, some states require the certificate of inspection be issued no more than 10 days before your trip. Many people do not get this paperwork, and generally, nothing happens. However, if there is an incident for your dog and you do not have your paperwork in order, you may be fined or your dog may be seized for quarantine. It’s just a good idea to have the papers in order, even though you hopefully won’t need them.

If you are flying, you’ll want to check with the individual airline for the requirements for the transport of pets.

Aside from required papers and the rabies vaccine, Florida is currently in an H3N Canine Influenza outbreak–it is in your dog’s best interest to be vaccinated for that potentially deadly virus. I’d also recommend making sure that your dog has been vaccinated for parvo, as the parvo virus can last on surfaces for up to a year. Additionally, you’ll want to ask your vet about the kennel cough vaccine to see if that is a recommendation for your pooch. And if you’re coming from a place without mosquitoes, talk to your doctor about heartworm preventative for your dog if your dog is not already on it, as heartworms are a year-round issue in Florida.

Finally, if you have not had your dog microchipped, you’ll want to do that and make sure that your contact information is correct in the system in case your dog gets loose.

What If My Dog Does Get Lost or Sick?

There are no on-site veterinary services at Walt Disney World, however the area does have veterinary clinics within an easy drive. For after-hours emergencies, I have used Veterinary Emergency Services of Central Florida, 2080 Principal Row, Orlando (407-644-4449). For lost dogs, contact Orange County Animal Services and Osceola County Animal Services.

Who is Liable If My Dog Injures Someone/Is Injured By Someone or Damages Something?

Faster than you can say Disney Legal, you can be certain that Disney will have themselves covered by waivers of liability. If your dog injures someone, you will be responsible for the liability. If you/your dog is injured by someone else’s dog, you will have to seek damages from them. Check with your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if you are covered when you travel, as well as any travel insurance you are carrying. You will also be financially responsible for any damage done to the room by your pet above and beyond normal use and wear.

Are There Any Other Rules?

Aside from the rules mentioned above, Disney has some additional rules. Your pets are not allowed on lobby furniture during check-in. Your dogs can be left unattended in your hotel room, but you must go to your room once every seven hours to provide care for your dog. Your dog will be expected to be quiet in the room–if your dog begins barking, you are required to address the issue within 30 minutes. If your dog is in the room, you must display the special dog door tag on your door. During this time, housekeeping services will not be provided. Disney has not stated whether after-hours housekeeping service would be an option, but my guess is that housekeeping service outside of normal hours would be limited to drop off of towels and toiletries. If housekeeping service is important to you, you’ll want to coordinate with the front desk for a time when you can be at the room so services can be provided.

When it comes to dog waste, you are required to pick up after your pet. In Orange County, fines for not picking up dog waste range from $84-$110 per instance, and these fines can be levied even on private property.

What On-Site Services Are Available?

There are no in-room dog-sitting services currently at Walt Disney World, however there is an on-site pet resort. Located across from Port Orleans, Best Friends offers boarding, doggy daycare, doggy day camp, and activities for your pets (and they do board cats and pocket pets as well). If your dog is staying at Best Friends for the day or for overnight boarding, you are allowed to use their outdoor dog park facility, which is delightfully themed and fun for animals and humans alike. I’ve boarded my animals there before and have been very thrilled with the level of care. Please note that Best Friends does require vaccination records at check-in (Best Friends has very specific rules about vaccinations, even for doggy daycare and doggy day camp, which you can read about here). Reservations at Best Friends for boarding, doggy daycare, and doggy day camp are highly encouraged as the facility can fill up.

Where Can I Get Food For My Dog?

Don’t expect Walt Disney resort hotels to start stocking dog food any time soon. If you want to pick up food, treats, or other supplies for your dogs, the usual off-site grocery stores and super centers (Target, Walmart) offer a decent selection. You can also have dog food delivered by services like Garden Grocer, Amazon Prime, or Instacart. For general pet supplies, the closest PetSmart is located in Winter Garden, FL (about a 25-minute drive up 429).

Can I Take My Dog To…?

The short answer is no. You cannot take your pet to a Walt Disney World Theme Park, Disney Springs, Disney water parks, Disney golf courses, or anywhere in the resort that is not a designated dog path or designated dog-friendly hotel room. And please, please, please do not leave your dog in a car even for a few minutes. Even on a cloudy or cool day, and even if you leave a window cracked, temperatures in cars can rise quickly, leading to serious injury or death.

Is There a Dog Park?

Yes, sort of. Walt Disney World has two dog parks on property–One is at Best Friends Pet Resort, but is only for the use of registered Best Friends guests. The other is at Fort Wilderness, however due to parking restrictions, you will not be guaranteed to be allowed to park at Fort Wilderness, and you cannot take a Disney transportation bus to get there with your dog. Your only option would be to take a Minnie Van (which can drop you off at that location) or an Uber/taxi, which may drop you off at the Outpost and require you to walk to the dog park, which is located near Loop 300.

Dog park at Best Friends.
Dog park at Best Friends.

What Are Some Other Considerations?

Certainly, the cost is prohibitive for many people who are thinking about bringing their dogs on vacation, but there are some other considerations to keep in mind. My pets are used to the nightly sound of fireworks, but our neighbor’s dog still cowers in terror at its home every night. The sound of the fireworks can be rather loud at these resorts, and so if you know your dog is afraid of loud noises (fireworks, thunderstorms, etc.), you will want to have someone with the dog for the dog’s comfort each evening during fireworks. Also, like people, animals do behave differently when they are on vacation compared with when they are at home. You might consider bringing a webcam/security camera to be able to check in on your dog throughout the day to make sure your dog is having a quiet and restful day alone in the room. Alternatively, you can book doggy daycare or doggy day camp at Best Friends and have them do the work of making sure your dog has fun while you’re having fun.

Travel can be stressful on pets, so you may want to do a trial run by booking a hotel at home and leaving your dog there for a day (if their rules permit it) to see how your dog reacts. Like people, some dogs are fantastic travelers. Others may be less excited about the vacation experience.

I’m Allergic to/Afraid of Dogs–Will There Be A Disney Hotel I Can Stay At?

As someone with allergies that can trigger an anaphylaxis reaction, I absolutely understand the concerns about allergies. Disney has stated that only certain rooms/areas/buildings will be dog-friendly and the rest of the rooms will remain pet-free. If you have allergy or sensitivity concerns, make sure to note this at check-in and Disney will work with you to keep you far, far away from the dog-friendly rooms of the resort and can even let you know where the dog walking paths are so you can avoid them.

Will This Expand to Other Disney Resort Hotels or Theme Parks?

It is almost certain that Disney will not expand this to allow dogs in the theme parks–the safety issues caused by dogs in theme parks are significant, as attractions aren’t designed for dogs. If the program is successful, it may expand to other resort hotels, however in line with industry standards, there will be only certain areas in certain parts of a resort hotel that will be dog-friendly. The majority of rooms in Disney resort hotels will remain pet-free.

Why Is Disney Doing This Now?

Short answer, people have asked for it and it is a way to make money. But it also is the trend in the hotel industry to become more dog-friendly over the years. Universal has had dog-friendly options for a while, for instance. You can read our review of it here. In reality, there will be some people who want to make use of this service, but I doubt you’ll see the resorts overrun with Great Danes any time soon. The cost is prohibitive, and although it is nice to have your dog stay with you, if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the parks, you’ll still be paying and taking time to get your dog off to doggy daycare or day camp as an added expense. Plus, having traveled with animals before, the logistics are much more challenging than even traveling with a young child. Once the novelty wears off, I doubt you’ll see too many people doing extended stay with Fido and Fluffy, but I do expect that the option will continue going forward for those who want to make use of it.

Have any additional questions about this new service? Let us know in the comments.

 

Julia Mascardo

Freelance writer and editor, living the dream in Central Florida with my husband, cats, and spirited eight-year-old daughter.

29 thoughts on “A Doggone Good Primer to Disney’s Dog-Friendly Hotels

  • October 16, 2017 at 11:55 am
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    You don’t mention it in the article, but to me, this offering really seems oriented at people who are already coming to WDW with their service dogs, and as a result tend to stay off-site. If service dogs are welcome in a few on-property hotels, Disney can capture the hotel revenue from those folks that they’re currently missing out on.

    I agree that there won’t be a significant number of families using this; who would bring their dog to WDW, just to leave it locked up alone in a hotel room all day? I’m sure a few families will enjoy having their dogs at night, and drop them off at the kennel on their way to the parks in the morning, but not so many that it affects the larger guest experience.

    • October 16, 2017 at 12:46 pm
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      I think there’s a good number of people with emotional support dogs who will benefit from this, yes. For service dogs covered under the ADA (which doesn’t include comfort dogs, emotional support dogs, or therapy dogs), they have always been permitted in Disney hotel rooms, theme parks, and public spaces because of the ADA requirements.

      But yes, my last dog was such a people pooch that it would have made her miserable to be left alone in a hotel room all day, and so boarding her whenever we were out of town was the better way to go so she had plenty of people time instead of being alone in a hotel room. I think most people are that way. And for people who have large dogs, they know that big dog + small room is just a bad idea, so they’d leave them home anyhow.

      • October 16, 2017 at 2:02 pm
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        Wow, total brain fart. You’re right, service dogs have been allowed at the hotels all this time! That just makes all this outrage even more ridiculous – it’s not actually a “change,” operationally, just a chance for them to monetize something they’re already accommodating under the ADA.

        • October 17, 2017 at 2:11 pm
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          A service dog is highly trained and is not left in the room. This is very different from a pet that can be left unattended for long periods of time.

        • October 28, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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          AFAIK, under ADA law re service animals, Disney is not allowed to charge for service animals, even if they charge for pets. Emotional support animals are not covered by the ADA law.

  • October 16, 2017 at 12:24 pm
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    We booked our Nov.-Dec. stay at the Yacht Club Resort over 7 months ago. Would have booked the Beach Club Resort had we known this was happen. This late in the game there is no availability at the Beach Club. Do you have any idea what area of the Yacht Club Resort will be for guests with dogs. We usually request a particular room or area, but I don’t know if it will be in the pet area. Not real happy that we were not given more advance notice of this.

    • October 16, 2017 at 12:50 pm
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      That was my biggest concern about the way this was rolled out–you have people for whom this is something they don’t want to be involved in who weren’t given notice, and then you have people who might have made use of the service who have already booked boarding back at home or don’t have options now to bring their dogs with them when they might have wanted to if they had more notice.

      If I were Disney, I’d put the pet-friendly areas about as far away from everything as possible, because you’re charging more for what used to be cheap rooms. The best advice is to emphasize the importance of an area away from pet-friendly rooms. Another option is to ask about availability at the Boardwalk. (But if it is Stormalong Bay that is the big draw, you would be locked in to either Yacht or Beach–as a Florida gal, the idea of going into Stormalong Bay in Nov/Dec isn’t one I can comprehend, so Boardwalk would be a viable option!)

      • October 16, 2017 at 1:56 pm
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        Julia,
        Thanks for your reply. We have stayed at Yacht or Beach Club late November to mid December the last few years and have had days quite warm enough to enjoy Stormalong Bay. It is one of the main reasons we choose these resorts each year. I have and will request a room away from the pet-friendly area. I just wish I knew what particular area that is. I have used the room request feature with Touringplans.com and had very good success with it. The problem is I don’t know if the room/area we really like had now become a pet-friendly area. I hope that you will be able to add this information to your site VERY SOON!

        • October 16, 2017 at 2:17 pm
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          I’ve got the world’s thinnest blood–right now, my pool temperature is at 84 and it’s too cold for me to get in without the heater! 🙂

          Stormalong Bay is such an amazing pool, I agree. I personally prefer Kidani better for our family (the water playground is awesome, and I like the zero entry without sand), but I wouldn’t turn down a summertime stay with a day at Stormalong Bay!

          Looking online, I’m seeing mention that pet relief areas are outside the rooms 1001-1054, so if I had to guess, that would be a reasonable guess about where the pet-friendly rooms are there. We’re trying to get actual answers from Disney, however.

          No matter what, have an AWESOME trip!

          • October 16, 2017 at 2:35 pm
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            Thanks! 1001 is the room I was going to request. It was our room for our 1st stay at the Yacht Club (our 35th Anniversary) and we are going back to celebrate our anniversary this year. That makes me so sad, but I am glad to know in advance.

    • October 17, 2017 at 2:13 pm
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      The area for the Yacht Club is near the quiet pool and hot tub. I agree the short notice was not a good thing on Disney’s part.

  • October 16, 2017 at 12:34 pm
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    Thank you so much for this article, as I have been concerned after hearing the news. We love animals in our home, but unfortunately when my child was 5 she was attacked by our neighbors dogs while playing with their daughter. As you can except she has a fear of dogs that has improved with age, she is 10 now but she gets very anxious around excited or unpredictable dogs. Most of the time she is fine with dogs on a leash, she just tends to move to the other side of where they are (or behind me). As AOA and POR are two of our favorites, I thought we would have to look at other resorts due to the new changes. After reading your article, I feel we could still do these resorts and be fine. Glad this is available to people who need or would like the service, but also glad to see that they are considering the kids that are not comfortable around dogs as well.

    • October 16, 2017 at 12:55 pm
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      I’m so sorry about your daughter’s experience. There’s a few breeds that I’m nervous about because I’ve had some rough experiences with them (German Shepherds and Chows), so I can understand the apprehension and giving some dogs a wide berth. Because the number of people who will take advantage of this offering is so low, I’m confident that Disney will still do their best by everyone else. I expect it will be about as intrusive as smoking areas–if you’re out wandering around, you can easily stumble into a smoking area at some resorts, but they’re usually in out of the way areas so most people don’t find them unless they’re wandering around or looking for them.

  • October 16, 2017 at 12:50 pm
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    I am glad to see this comprehensive article on this apparently very polarizing topic. Maybe it will help quell some of the arguing and rush-to-judgement/doomsday-style comments I’ve read on Lines chat and Facebook and other platforms. Seems so odd to me that you never hear complaining about the similar service at Universal. If there was a serious issue there, I’m sure we’d have heard all about it. And let’s not forget the full embrace of Disney for dogs being allowed at their resorts during Irma, which was great for humanitarian reasons, but still would have caused all the problems people are “worried” will happen now (maybe even worse since during Irma dogs couldn’t outside AT ALL and had to do their business in the rooms).

    I also think people are forgetting 2 things that Disney is almost universally praised for: keeping small children in mind when making policy changes, and, importantly, doing everything they can to help guests with allergies. Books have been written about their attention to culinary allergies, and accommodating guests with a wide variety of ills, disabilities and other things. There is absolutely NO reason to think that Disney hasn’t considered fully people with canine allergies and phobias.

    Thanks again for this thorough article.

    • October 16, 2017 at 1:01 pm
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      Thank you so much for the comment! Every time Disney makes a change, it has a huge opportunity for people to feel like it is an attack on the way they want to “Do Disney”. Similar conversations about how the end is near happened when Starbucks showed up on Main Street and alcohol began being served at some Magic Kingdom restaurants.

      Sure, there may be some hiccups as the processed is identified, but I’m saving my “the end is near” rage for when tent cabanas with open bars end up on Main Street. 😉

      • October 16, 2017 at 1:19 pm
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        Ha! And I’ll be right there with you raging against those Main Street cabanas! 🙂

    • October 16, 2017 at 2:03 pm
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      Regarding allergies, service dogs have been allowed at the hotels for some time now, so this isn’t really a “change” from that perspective.

      • October 16, 2017 at 4:10 pm
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        Actually as someone who has dander allergies, it’s a big difference. The dander accumulates. So if you have several pets in the same area over and over it is tougher to get rid of the allergy inducing dander.

        Disney actually said the same thing when I called about my reservation. They did advise me to put in a special cleaning request in addition to asking to be placed away from the pet friendly area.

  • October 16, 2017 at 2:40 pm
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    There is also Woof Gang Bakery in Celebration , which sells dog food and treats and supplies.

  • October 16, 2017 at 3:40 pm
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    I worry that Disney will put people without dogs in the dog friendly area if they don’t sell all of the dog friendly rooms to dog owners. I can’t imagine they will let rooms stay open if they can book them. I am glad my next trip is at Pop. When we stayed at Universal we specifically requested rooms far away from the pet section.

  • October 16, 2017 at 11:44 pm
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    I can’t for the life of me, reading all these provisions, think of a reason why any sane dog owner would take this option. When I travel, I bring my dog to a day care for $50 per night that includes feeding, walks, supervised play, etc. Much less expense and hassle for the humans, much more care and attention for the dog. I actually would prefer an option to bring a cat. They do well solo for much longer periods of time, require much less attention for their emotional well being, and if provided with proper scratching posts are way less likely to do damage.

    • October 17, 2017 at 1:40 pm
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      You haven’t met my cats 😉

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  • October 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm
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    Just as a data point for people who are allergic to dogs: I called about our upcoming stay at AoA. What I ended up requesting was that they not put us in a room that had just had a dog in it. At AoA, I guess Cars rooms WILL be dog-friendly, but Lion King will not. They offered to try to relocate me as an option, but I wanted to stay with Cars (and figure 2 weeks of this policy isn’t going to make the Cars rooms terrible options). So definitely let them know and they should be able to put you in a non-dog building.

    • October 17, 2017 at 2:12 pm
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      Ugggh . . . Cars is where we are staying and we are all so excited about it! BUT we are not excited about the new dog friendly policy. I like dogs, but I don’t want to deal with other people’s dogs while I am on vacation. I don’t want to listen to them bark or whine all night. I guess we need to decide which we want more . . . to stay in Cars area or be away from the dogs. If Disney is going to do this, they need to build separate room areas to certain hotels. I am not a fan of this new policy at all.

    • October 17, 2017 at 2:27 pm
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      When you called AofA, did they indicate anything about the Finding Nemo suites and the dog policy? Thanks!

      • October 24, 2017 at 2:07 pm
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        When we called, we were told the rooms that allowed dogs would be in the Cars section, building 3. They gave us the option of moving to the Lion King area. We really wanted to stay in Cars, so we requested a building other than 3.

  • October 17, 2017 at 3:19 pm
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    Let me see if I have this right.
    I love my dog so very much that I’ll put it in a cage to transport it hundreds of miles from home.
    Then I’ll leave it all alone in a strange room for up to 7 full hours at a time without access to relieving itself. For several days.
    Then I’ll cage it again for the long trip home.
    The selfish cruelty we willingly visit upon indefensible animals in the name of love never ceases to upset me.

  • October 18, 2017 at 11:52 am
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    Ugh – worst idea ever!

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