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By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
Dogs are a big part of the RV lifestyle. One of the advantages to RV travel is the ability to bring pets with the family on their adventures. However, do pets belong at RV shows?
Last week, I visited the Florida RV and Dog Supershow in Tampa. It was very well attended; however, I noticed a dramatic increase in the number of animals coming into the show. I counted 16 dogs while walking about 100 feet to find a restroom.
In fact, one participant snapped a picture of someone walking through the displays with a pet goat. The whole idea of service animals and comfort companions probably deserves a story of its own.
On the show grounds, among the open RV displays, dogs aren’t nearly as noticeable or as big a problem as they are in the indoor exhibit areas. Even then, many RV dealers don’t allow pets to wander into the recreation vehicles.
Some exhibitors are taking notice of the burgeoning pet problem and wondering aloud whether that many dogs in a crowded venue is creating a safety hazard for people and the pets.
I consulted several devout pet-friendly folks who told me they thought it was cruel to expose a dog to so many new sounds, smells, strangers and other animals in a relatively confined space. Some of the pooches appeared to enjoy the outing, while others gave off the aura that, if they had a choice, they would rather snuggle next to two cats than combat the crowds.
The aisles separating booths seems to be getting more narrow because organizers must shrink the space to try accommodating as many exhibitors clamoring for booth space as possible.
So, along with the hundreds of people navigating the exhibits, add parents pushing strollers, human strollers (those walking 150 feet per hour), motorized scooters and wheelchairs.
Then add to the soup a plethora of young children, many who are running amok, and dogs of all sizes on a leash and it becomes a dangerous situation.
Excited children dart from display to display, risking contact with adults on scooters and those whose everyday walking reflexes aren’t as responsive as they once were. Children also stoop to pet dogs, making the kiddos and the pets hard to see.
It helps when pet owners have dogs attached to brightly-colored leashes. But, black leashes often blend into the dark background of draped tables, black displays and dark carpet. It is a fall just waiting to happen.
Last week, I watched several potential dog fights erupt as anxious, nervous animals encountered playful, confident dogs. Nips, bites, snaps and growls were common, and sometimes adults and kids got caught up in the turf wars.
What’s the solution?
We don’t want to ban pets or kids from RV shows because they are an integral part of the RV lifestyle. So, here are a few ideas for show organizers to consider:
- Find a sponsor to provide short, brightly-colored leashes at the entrance to the exhibit halls. Most pet owners should be willing to use them, especially when told it is for the safety of all types of visitors.
- Establish one-way traffic flow through the booth aisles. Without having to worry about oncoming traffic, there should be enough space in the aisles to accommodate walkers, strollers, scooters, kids and pets.
- Ask owners to muzzle the dogs when going through indoor displays.
Who has any other ideas?
Just a few rules will make the shows safer, easier for all to navigate, and reduce the liability risk to organizers and exhibitors — all of whom already pay extraordinarily high insurance rates just to have a presence in the public space.