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More Second-Home Communities Welcome Pets

By Larry Olmsted for USA TODAY

Pets, especially dogs, have never been as big a part of the family as they are today.

From sitters to spas, massages and antidepressants, people spare no expense when it comes to their pets — even during tough economic times. Americans will spend $47.7 billion on their pets this year, up from $45.5 billion last year, the American Pet Product Association estimates. Almost two-thirds of U.S. households, 62%, have a pet, according to the most recent National Pet Owners Survey. That’s some 71.4 million homes — and about 45% of the pets are dogs, the survey finds.

Any wonder that the search for second homes includes pet accommodations? Developers of second homes and real estate agents are taking that into consideration. Realty firms that specialize in pet-friendly sales can now be found in most major cities.

“Many of our clients refuse to even travel to look at potential properties without bringing their four-legged friends,” says Marian Schaffer, owner of Southeast Discovery, a realty and consultancy firm that specializes in retirement and second homes — and spots pet-friendly ones.

“Developers are starting to recognize dog parks as an important amenity,” Schaffer says. “We visit over 100 communities annually, and we’re seeing more and more parks. At Rarity Bay in (Vonore) Tennessee, the dog park has its own website. I’ve never seen a community with a dog park website before, and that shows the current level of interest.”

People take their pets, especially dogs, with them when they travel. Hotels have become more pet friendly. Cars, like the Honda Element SUV, are advertised as dog-friendly. Second-home communities are embracing pet owners, too, and making pet amenities selling points.

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