Imagine a world where you don’t have to worry about leaving your pet cooped up in the house or RV for hours on end while you go about your day. Where dogs and their owners can explore the world and all its fast-moving sights and curious smells together, without having to worry about things like finding a tree to tie up your dog while you run into a café to get a cup of coffee. This world may exist only in the dreams of pet lovers, but it is a dream that two RVers, Amy and Rod Burkert, are attempting to transform into reality.
In 2009, they launched GoPetFriendly.com, a free website where users can search for places where their pets are welcome. The couple, who have two dogs, (a Shar-Pei, Ty, and Buster, a German shepherd) was frustrated after finding that most hotel-booking sites allow you to search for pet-friendly establishments, but don’t offer much information beyond that in terms of weight restrictions, fees and additional information.
GoPetFriendly.com has current pet policies for more than 4,000 pet-friendly campgrounds and RV parks and more than 20,000 hotels and B&Bs throughout the U.S. and Canada. It also lists restaurants, beaches, stores, service providers and more that allow pets, making it one-stop shopping for planning a pet-friendly vacation. And if a user knows of a pet-friendly location that’s not listed on the website, they can click on the “Fill Us In” link at the bottom of the home page to let the Burkerts know.
“We wanted to create a website that would make it easy for people to plan fun trips with their pets,” Amy Burkert told MotorHome magazine.
Amy is no stranger to camping and the conveniences that it offers for traveling with pets, having RVed in two types of small campers with her family and pet Beagle as a child. It was a natural decision for the Burkerts to team up with top RV manufacturer Winnebago to make traveling with their two dogs even easier.
“For us, I’d say traveling in an RV is the easiest way to travel with pets,” Burkert says. “Both of our dogs are too large to fly in the cabin of an airplane, and I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of putting them in the cargo hold. We’ve done a couple of long road trips in our car, and I think we’re all looking forward to having more space to spread out.”
Both of the Burkerts left their day jobs to focus on GoPetFriendly.com, and are currently exploring the country in their new 2010 Winnebago View, a 24-foot Class C motorhome built on a Dodge/Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. The View has many features that the entire Burkert family, including Ty and Buster, appreciate.
“The floor space is key. The extra square feet provided by the large slideout room and locating the bed over the cab really makes a big difference,” Burkert says, adding, “It also helps keep pet hair out of your sheets!”
A little training goes a long way when traveling with pets, and the Burkerts recommend being clear and consistent: “You can’t expect that your dog will follow commands when you’re away from home if you haven’t practiced in your own back yard.”
The Burkerts don’t plan on stopping their adventures in their Winnebago View anytime soon, and recommend Washington, D.C., and St. Louis to RVers looking for pet-friendly destinations. According to Amy, “I’m looking forward to the freedom – the opportunity to see new things, meet new people, to stay as long as we want and then head off to the next place that sounds interesting.”