FOR decades they have been left in the dog house when their owners went on holiday.
But now canine companions are being welcomed into youth hostels for the first time at a cost of £5 per night.
However, the deal depends on owners signing a canine covenant, which warns they may be ejected if their pet disturbs other guests with excessive barking or bad behaviour.
The Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) is poised to introduce the concession in all 70 properties, from Lerwick in Shetland to Kirk Yetholm in the Borders, following a successful pilot scheme. The pilot sites were Torridon in Wester Ross and Cairngorm Lodge near Aviemore.
Keith Legge, chief executive officer of SYHA Hostelling Scotland, said there had been strong demand for the organisation to open its doors to man’s best friend. He said: “We are always keen to respond to what customers tell us they want and feedback shows many of our guests would like to bring their pets on holiday with them.”
He said the pilot sites were chosen “because their location is particularly suitable for guests who wish to enjoy outdoor activities, especially walking. So far, the initiative has gone well with positive feedback both from guests who bring their dogs and those who do not.”
Canine accommodation is restricted to private rooms, with communal bedrooms remaining dog free.
Owners must abide by a set of comprehensive guidelines. They state: “Dog owners must ensure that others guests and dogs are not at risk from your dog and any necessary precautions are put in place whilst within the hostel and its grounds. Please ensure other guests are not disturbed by noise or disruptive behaviour as the dog may then be asked to stay in your car or leave early. The dog owner is responsible for cleaning up after the dog at all times and you will need to bring your own equipment (bowls, bed, poop bags, etc). Dogs should be fully inoculated and have had veterinary health checks.”
In addition, the guidelines stipulate that dogs must be kept on leads at all times, that owners must not leave the hostel without their pet and that dogs are not to be left unattended in bedrooms for more than one hour.
Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club, which represents dog owners, said: “Unfortunately there are low numbers of dog-friendly hotels and hostels across the UK, leaving young dog owners in particular in a vulnerable position, so we welcome this decision from the SYHA and hope the trial is made permanent.
“Our Open For Dogs campaign was set up to break down barriers for dogs and their owners and actively encourages more businesses to be dog friendly.”
However, Lindsey McManus of the charity and campaign group Allergy UK expressed reservations. “Pet allergies are very common and can be responsible for diseases such as allergic rhinitis and asthma,” she said. “Symptoms can include sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, a runny nose, congestion and coughing and wheezing when around dogs or in rooms where dogs have been.
“Dog allergens can adhere to many surfaces triggering reactions so we would advise that some areas be no-go zones for dogs.”
A spokesman for SYHA sought to allay the charity’s fears, stating: “We are aware that some guests may not love dogs as much as their owners do and some may even have allergies. That is why we only allow dogs where a private room has been reserved and we do not permit them in all common areas. Extra cleaning takes place in rooms that have been used by a dog. In addition, where a guest has an allergy they are placed in a room that has never been used for dogs.”
The SYHA is a self-governing voluntary organisation, and as a not-for-profit business invests all surplus back into its hostels. It claims around 30,000 members and hostels now provide accommodation in both dormitory and private rooms.
It faces stiff competition from budget hotel groups and has been hampered by its no-pets policy.
The UK’s first luxury hotel for dogs opened in Wickford, Essex, in September. The Pooch Palace features individual bedrooms adorned with plasma TVs, crystal chandeliers, four-poster dog beds, underfloor heating and a dog spa complete with a whirlpool bath.