Pittsburgh loves its pets, and our city’s boutique hotels have noticed.

About a decade ago, Jonathan Plesset, president of Shadyside Inn All Suites Hotel on Fifth Avenue, started allowing his guests to bring pets. The hotel had gotten rid of its carpets around that time, which made welcoming animals easier.

And he eventually fenced in land around his hotel, creating a 1,650-square-foot dog park for his guests.

Plesset is a firm believer in courting pet travelers, which seems like good business: More than one-third of travelers bring their dogs and cats along for the ride these days, according to the American Pet Products Association. That’s up from just 19 percent a decade ago.

Pittsburgh’s Fairmont Hotel, Hotel Monaco, Hotel Indigo and Distrikt Hotel and others have the same approach: They all welcome dogs in their guest rooms.

At the Ace Hotel in East Liberty, dogs pretty much have the run of the place (though owners are, understandably, asked to keep them out of the Whitfield restaurant) and “we have bowls available at the desk to take up to rooms, as well as some rubber food mats for messy eaters. We also have complimentary dog treats for all,” says Aaron Clark, whose title at Ace Pittsburgh is cultural engineer.

“The lobby bar and coffee bar seem to turn into dogfest during the daytime and into happy hour. We have quite a few canine regulars visiting us at least once a week. For anyone wishing they had an office dog, it’s a great place to post up and get some work done,” Clark says. “As far as other animals go, it’s mostly cats. But we’ve also had a bird or two. And recently we had someone chilling in our lobby bar having cocktails with their iguana hanging out on their shoulder.”

Beginning this week at Shadyside Inn, Plesset will take Pittsburgh’s pet-friendliness yet another step further: His new pet adoption program launched on April 30 (National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day) with a simple but unique concept: He’s subsidizing pet adoption costs for guests who either don’t have a pet yet or would love to have another.

Guests who stay five nights or more earn a $250 adoption credit given to the shelter of their choice, so they can adopt a pet at little or no cost when they get home. Guests just need to let the hotel know which shelter (anywhere in the U.S.) they want to adopt from and pass the appropriate background checks. The $250 goes directly to that shelter.

Helping animals find a home has been Plesset’s priority since 2012, when he co-founded the nonprofit Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team (PAART). The organization uses multiple airplanes, ground transport vehicles and a team of more than 200 volunteers to transport animals from shelter to shelter throughout the East Coast.

They transport these animals, Plesset says, “because they’re going to be euthanized due to lack of space or lack of funding, and we’re taking them to places that have the funding or have the space.”

His new program encouraging pet adoption will run at least until the end of the year, but Plesset hopes to continue it indefinitely if it’s successful. Given how many Americans are prioritizing having pets in their lives, he likes his chances: Over the past two years, he’s seen the number of pet travelers grow from a slow trickle of seven per month, to at least 15 monthly visitors now.  

“When you travel, you want to feel good. You want to feel like you’re at home. We have solved 90 percent of that — we give you a home,” Plesset says. “I think you’re going to see a lot more people realizing that there is no reason why you can’t bring your dog.”

Sam Bojarski

Sam Bojarski is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh's East End. When he's not on deadline, he can be found running through one of Pittsburgh's city parks, reading history or playing the mandolin.