If the sound of whimpers and the sight of sad puppy dog eyes have pet owners rethinking their decision to leave their furry friends behind when hitting the town, it may come as a relief to such owners that more and more businesses are becoming pet-friendly.

There was a time when pets were boarded while their owners went on vacation or left to their own devices while the family went shopping or out for a bite to eat. But this is no longer the case. Businesses are recognizing that people want to spend time with their pets, and, as a result, a growing number of restaurants, shopping centers, hotels, and other businesses are becoming pet-friendly.

Restaurant Insider says that dog ownership has gone up by 6 percent in the last few years, and ASPCA states that just under half of all households in the United States include a dog. Although not every pet owner wants to dine or vacation with his or her pooch, many are inclined to do so. Lodging magazine says that many pet owners consider their pets part of their families, and around 10 percent of travelers are inclined to travel with their feline and canine companions.

Although there are no hard statistics indicating just how many businesses are pet-friendly, and whether or not such policies are good for business, it’s fair to assume that opening doors to pets can benefit some business owners’ bottom lines. People who do not have to rush home to a pet may stay at a restaurant a little longer than they otherwise would, and vacationers may extend their trips if their furry friend is with them instead of sitting in a kennel back home.

In the United States, the only federal law regarding pets in public establishments is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows for service dogs to go anywhere the public is normally allowed to go. In terms of general laws welcoming pets, it’s largely up to individual states. In many eateries, pets are limited to outdoor spaces.

“The bill Dining with Dogs, which recently passed both the Assembly and State Senate in New York City, mimics a similar California law,” says Judie Mancuso, founder and president of Social Compassion in Legislation. “It allows restaurants that have outdoor areas to open them up to their patron’s dogs if they so choose to.”

The law also established specific guidelines for restaurants to follow to ensure health and safety codes.

Pet owners can rely on a bevy of apps and websites to find pet-friendly establishments. Bringfido.com, Dogtrekker.com, Dogsniffer.com, Pettravel.com, TakeYourPet.com, and many others make it easy for pet owners to find pet-friendly businesses.

Businesses that cater to families and pets can capitalize on their customers’ love of spending time with their pets.

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