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Add-On Charges for Pets – What’s Your Feeling on This? Is it Fair or Not?

October 20, 2010 by · 74 Comments 


“WHAT?  You want $70 in extra fees for my pet to stay with us in our camper for 2 weeks?”

That is what I encountered this past summer at a beach campground we frequently visit.

Our friends that have 3 toy poodles were told upon arrival that their pet up-charge would be $210 for two weeks.  They canceled their reservation and left.

We begrudgingly paid the pet fee and stayed.

How is it that responsible people get punished for those who are irresponsible?  That’s how I feel every time I encounter a campground that charges an extra fee for pets.

I do need to introduce this topic with sensitivity.  It is not my intent to upset any campground owners or campers.

If you’re a pet owner (or even if you’re not) maybe you can relate to my story…..

Yesterday I telephoned the reservation center for one of our Virginia State Park campgrounds.  The reservationists that handled my call was extremely polite and helpful.

Me: “I would like to make a reservation for Belle Isle for Friday and Saturday night.”

Her: “How many people?

Me: “Two”

Her: “Do you have any pets?”

Me: “Yes, a small Dachshund.”

Her: “There is an additional $5 charge per day for each pet – do you want to pay it as part of your registration or at the Ranger Station when you arrive.”

There is an extra $5 per pet, per night charge added on.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, this is not the first time I have been confronted with this fee.  But, still, I was surprised to hear it coming from our State Park service.

Nancy and I are responsible pet owners.  We always carry a poop bag and clean up any mess.  We do not allow Oscar to run free, dig holes, ruin fragile plant life, interfere with other campers or bark excessively.  He spends much of his time indoors asleep on the couch or in my favorite chair.

Needless to say, I see the added fee as a penalty brought on by irresponsible pet owners.  Keep in mind a recent survey indicated that at least 60% of us camp and travel with our pets.  While I have observed some pet owners that will watch their dog make a mess, and then walk away, the majority I observe out for morning walks do clean up after their pet.

Responsible Pet Owners Always Clean Up after their Pets!

I have never observed a campground staff Dog Poo Clean-up Patrol.  I have arrived on campsites with fresh poo in the walking area.  I always clean up pet poo, even if it is not from my dog.  That is part of being a responsible camper.  I also pick up cigarette butts and bottle caps.  It is my belief you should, if possible and appropriate, always leave a campsite cleaner than you find it.

I knew the lady I was talking with did not make the rules, nor could she change them.  Still, I decided to investigate further to discover what responses she may have been trained to give to customers about the added fee.

Me: “Why is there an added charge for a pet?”

Her: “Well, pets get lost and Rangers have to spend time looking for them.  There are also additional grounds maintenance labor costs for cleaning up after pets.”

Me: “Is there an extra charge for unsupervised children that might get lost?”

Her: (Pause) “No sir, the camping fee covers up to six occupants.”

Me: “I see.  Is there an extra charge for smokers that litter the campsite with cigarette butts, consume beverages from bottles with detachable tops that litter the ground or elect to fill the fire pits with empty bottles and cans that I must clean up before we can have a campfire?”

Her: (Another pause) “No sir, but campers that violate our rules on littering can be evicted by a Ranger and even fined if there is a destruction of property.”

Me: “So, why is that same policy not extended to pet owners if they do not clean up their animal’s poo or follow rules?”

Her: (Obviously, becoming a little tired of this exchange but still extremely polite.)  “We do not have enough Rangers to constantly police camper activities.”

Woodall's has an excellent guide on RESPONSIBLE camping with pets - You may order it above.

At that point I ended the Q&A session and repeated to the lady that I understood she was only the purveyor of the information and in no way was responsible.  I also thanked her for her patience and polite answers.  I went ahead and completed the reservation – with the added $10 fee for Oscar – but I was far from being a happy camper.

The way I see it, I had three choices when I was confronted with their pet policy:

1.  Pay the $5 per night up-charge and get on with it.

2.  Lie and tell them I did not plan on bringing a pet (and then bring him anyway).

3.  Not patronize this campground and go somewhere else that did not charge an additional fee for pets.

I’m not into lying.  That is neither the way I was brought up nor the way we brought up our children.

So, #1 and #3 were my choices.  I elected #1 – this time.  Next time I will probably elect #3 and not return.  My choice will hurt both the campground , me and my pet.  That is a shame.  Pet’s love camping too.  In my home, Oscar is part of our family – he goes camping with us when we go.

Let’s get back to the $70 extra charge for Oscar to stay with us two weeks at the beach campground.  They also charge $5 per night for each pet.  If you stay two weeks with one pet, that is an added $70.  Two weeks with two pets is $140 – the charges add up quickly.   My pet will not require $70 in added services.

It is not that I can’t afford the add-on fee; it is the principle behind the reasoning for it to start with.  Make every pet owner pay for those who are irresponsible. That’s part I do NOT like.

I believe that if pet resident fees are added to ever pet owner, so should other fees as stated above.  Equity is important in these changing times.

Even Pets need Camping Weekends!

So – this is the bottom line:  I want to hear from our readers.  I know you are out there because analytics are telling us how many page reads we have each month.  I realize many readers do not like to make public comments, but I hope you will on this topic.  It would really be great to hear from some campground owners that have implemented this fee as well.  There are always two sides to every story.

If for some reason you DO NOT want to comment here, click on FORUMS at the top of the home page and drop a private e-mail to professor95.  I will not reveal your real name – only your commentary.

If my feelings are wrong and unjustified, I want to hear reasoning that will open my mind further.  If it is justified, our campground owners need to know what the public reaction is and what impact, if any; the policy may have on campground selection.

Again, I hope you will take the time to leave a comment.

Many thanks!



74 Responses to “Add-On Charges for Pets – What’s Your Feeling on This? Is it Fair or Not?”
  1. Jacque Coan says:

    Hurray for you!!! I completely agree!! We’ve been camping where three children ran thru our site and when we told them not to they looked like w where in the wrng and continued to do so until they checked out. When we went to the park manager he said he’d talk to the parents which he did bu to no avail.

  2. Frank says:

    My wife and I first encountered this problem about 2 years ago. Actually they had a limit of two dogs, we have 4, ranging from about 10-15LBS. They were at first not going to allow and then said if we only walk two at a time it would be ok. This year I called again and didnt really like the tone of the lady I talked too and explained we had stayed there last year, she then agreed but reluctantly and I think rather snippy continued to tell us how we could be asked to leave with no money return. I finally said I think I will find another campground, to which we did, and no fee and had a very pleasant stay. We have never not cleaned up after our pets. Our pets are almost like children to us now, so leaving them at home is not an option. One reason we purchased a camper again is so our pets could travel with us easier. The added fee, well, do the math! And I know some will say you dont have to have that many pets, which is true, but we do and love each one all the same. The fee is rediculous! I have never seen anyone cleaning up dog poo ohter than other responsible dog owners. Unfortunately it is becoming more and more prevailant, but what can you do? Pay and stay or try and find one in the same area you want to stay that does not charge the fee….to me it is nothing short of extortion. Yes it does frustrate me and I believe it is very unfair.

  3. ellen grider says:

    We stayed at a park in West Memphis,Ar where we were charged $2.00 per night for our pet. We were told it was because of the extra work required to clean up after pets. In the dog walk area where I took my dog, there were trash cans to deposit your doggie bags. The trash cans had not been emptied in weeks it appreared by the smell and flies. The cans were about 1/2 full of deposits and the park was not 1/2 full of campers.

    I think the added pet fee is just another way to make money.

  4. Richard Schaeffer says:

    A fee for a pet in a campground is nothing more than greed on the CG owners part (private or state) . Nothing will ever change because there are more people willing to pay a fee and consider it the “way it is”.

  5. Ogden Tuttle says:

    It’s NOT FAIR !!!!!!!

  6. Barbara says:

    I have a small dog that will travel with me – full-timing in my RV in a year. Where I go, she goes. 10 pounds worth of tiny dog. I would not stay where I had to pay extra.

    However, another thought. If I DID for some reason need to stay in a campground where I was required to pay extra for my dog, I guess I might be justified in feeling I didn’t have to clean up after her. Isn’t that what the extra charge is for? Maybe at campgrounds where all dog owners pay, no one should pick up the mess. Let the owners use the extra money to hire someone to do “poop patrol.”

    Think that would fly?

  7. Doug says:

    I have a small Westie which travels with me everywhere I go. Last year we traveled through 27 US states and fortunately only encountered this ridiculous fee for pets in one location. Lucky as it is becoming more prevalent. I agree entirely that this fee is more of a cash grab as I have yet to see anyone wearing a Poo Patrol Vest walking about a CG cleaning up the pet areas.Campers discarding bottles and cigarette butts are more of a nuisance. I religiously pick up after my “little guy” and carry a flash light when out at night to make sure I never use the darkness as an excuse, as some do. I find the problem of not scooping more with those owners who have large breed dogs (too large a handful!!!). If children can stay free then our pets should be able to. Bottom line – our pets have become very much a part of the family for all of us who have shed the kids and are able to enjoy the freedom of travel in our Motor Homes / RVs so to have that privilege / freedom hindered by a pet tax is outrageous. What ever happened to the term “Pet Friendly”! Oh I know – really means “pay me and I’ll be friendly with rules”.

  8. mari says:

    We have a Standard Poodle that travels were ever we go. We have always clean up after her. I have also cleaned up after others as well.

    I have to say that I feel campgrounds are opeaning a can of worms, and a lot of bad feelings from their potential campers.!! I beleive that we campers will find the campgrounds that charge for the pets to stay will end up being the dirtest campgrounds. They have already got you unhappy before you even go to your site.

  9. Travels with dog... says:

    I’m also one of those that picks up after my dog and deposits left by others. Ditto the cigarette butts, pop tops, trash, etc. HOWEVER, and this is a very large however, if I were to be charged extra for my dog due to his droppings. I WOULD NOT PICK UP AFTER HIM. After all, isn’t that what the extra charge is for? Dog droppings? So obviously the campground has employed someone to pick up the droppings for me.
    Rude on my part? Certainly. But if I’m paying for a service, I might as well use it. You want to charge me for picking up after my dog? Then by all means pick it up for me.

    Just my 2 cents worth………

  10. Bob says:

    We have three small dogs,a three pound chihuahua, ten pound poodle and shitzu. They are litter box trained so we never have to take them outside unless for exercise. Depending and what’s going on whether we pay the extra fee or not.

  11. Lisa says:

    I’m with Barbara. If the CG owner says the fee is for the extra work, then go to it!!! By crackie if they’re charging me for the service, then I’m an idiot to perform it for them. I have 4 children a Rottweiler and a Yorkie. Both pets have to be bribed to get up and walk meanwhile I spend all day making sure my human children aren’t being a nuisance.

    Hey, I hope they start charging for children – I will most definitely allow them to perform those duties! ! !

  12. Dear professor,
    You are right!! However, aren’t you use to paying for other people by now? My children are all grown yet 95% of my property tax goes to schools. My car insurance is high to pay for the “uninsured motorist”. Some people are collecting Social Security who have never contributed a dime. Now I’m going to pay for someone elses health care. It is a spreading epidemic that has now reached the campgrounds. So you have no choice but pay it and move on. I hope to meet you some day and sit around a campfire and complain about it but other than that I don’t think there is a thing we can do.
    If you hear of anyone starting a revolution please let me know.
    Best Regards,
    Will M

  13. L. Cross says:

    Late to the party as usual….I am a VA resident but have not camped in our state parks since we’ve had our RV. We usually stay at military bases and I have never had a problem there. Now that I know about this fee, I will continue to avoid the Virginia state parks. I am a cat owner (and she travels with us). I am ashamed that VA state parks would take such an unfair stance. As others have mentioned, children (and sometimes adults!) are quite more likely to be a nuisance than animals. Give me critters for neighbors any day!

  14. Donnie Anderson says:

    I have been camping with dogs since 1975 and have never encountered such a thing! I will be camping in Virginia this Summer for a night or two. However, If I can slip through I will not pay the $5.00! I pick up behind my dog and no one every knows they are in my Motor Home. I can see them charging for the Cabins or not allowing dogs in the Cabins, but to charge campers is STUPID!

  15. I have a Service Dog, which these evil places are NOT allowed by Federal Law to charge me for her…I told one lady, hey, do you charge someone in a wheelchair extra for HER medical device? Well, why are you charging me for mine? Besides, (as I bring the ADA website up on my smartphone) it’s against the LAW!

    Please keep picking up after your four-legged children…even just so YOU don’t step in the poo. There’s always someone who thinks the rules, while good for the rest of you, don’t apply to them because they are special. Rather than take it out on the CG, take it out on the irresponsible owners you see! =)

  16. shelley gold says:

    When making reservations if i am told there is a charge for dogs i tell them to forget the reservstions. Many RVers have pets if they all refused to stay at A campground that charges extra things will change. If we roll over and play dead other insane charges will soon be added

  17. John Arnold says:

    Amazing that they would charge extra or even think about since it appears that everybody cleans up after their dog. :>)

  18. possumtrotky says:

    I wish all campgrounds charged 5 or 10 dollars a night for animals. I get so tired of seeing doggie poo.
    I would like to see smokers charged the extra 5 or 10 dollars a day .
    I think all children under 18 should have to have a parent with them at all times especially when they are destroying the bathrooms, pools or anything else they can get their hands on.

  19. Marcie says:

    I find that most pet parents are more responsible than kid’s parents. I would choose a park with a “no children allowed” policy over a pary with a “no pets allowed” policy anyday.

  20. We always pay for the other guy. Taxes, Soc.Sec., health and car insurance, its the responsible people paying for the irresponsible people. Lets face it not all pet owners are responsible. Not all parents are either. Last week some one left a disposable diaper on my lawn, 10 feet from my garbage can.
    We just got back from French Creek State Park in PA. They charge $2 extra for a pet approved site even if you don’t have a pet. At least one can refuse to pay and go elsewhere and some times that feels good.

  21. William Hayden says:

    I am currently staying at a pet surcharge campground – $2.50 per night. I agree with everything that has already been said about this ridiculous fee. It is simply another way for campgrounds to increase revenue. I wonder if I can get a rebate for not using their bathrooms, pool, rec room, cable TV, and wi-fi?

  22. Fred Smith says:

    It’s got nothinmg to do with pets. It’s all about the way to put extra cash in the till. The last site we were at, never in 3 days had the trash cans emptied, so I do not know why they were worried about a little pile of POO.

  23. Liz Johns says:

    I would rather have the dog’s messes….Lucky we haven’t encountered that many on the west coast. What gets me is the barking dogs….till the O’dark hours and the kids (yes, I have two of my own). We’ve stayed at state parks & county parks and the barking dogs is beyond. Then the kids running around. We were staying at a county campground in OR a few yrs ago and my husband said the guys bathroom had feces smeared on the walls. Bathroom was previously clean, until a bus load of kids came in. Where is the supervision? We had dogs we traveled with until they had to be put down. Now we travel with our three cats.

  24. Bruce says:

    All I know is that if someone tried to charge me extra for my little dog (Yorky) I’d probably leave and stay somewhere else. I mean, honestly, he’s the best dog, and he’s not even as big as my camping stove. I don’t see what the problem is.

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