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Pet owners find more hotel doors open during aftermath

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Rex is one of about 100 pets staying at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club. KATHERINE SNOW SMITH / Times

A greyhound named Rex strolled down the wide front steps of the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club early Thursday morning. Not far behind him came Greta, a German shepherd. The calm canines were just two of the many pets staying at the 91-year-old luxury hotel.

General manager Barbara Readey estimated 100 or more animals have checked into the historic landmark, which normally only allows service animals, since it reopened Wednesday after losing power during Hurricane Irma.

Chains such as La Quinta Inns & Suites and Days Inn are known for welcoming pets at all times at almost all locations, but a random check of 25 local hotels and motels found 10 waived no-pet policies or pet fees during and after Hurricane Irma.

"On Friday last week we probably had close to 50 pets running around the hotel, and we're a small hotel, 137 rooms," said Kevin Scott, general manager of the Epicurean Hotel in South Tampa. It normally doesn't allow animals. "We wanted to do the right thing for people already stressed to their max. We've seen everything from chihuahuas to a bull mastiff. My sister was here with a 110-pound Native American Indian dog that looks like the direwolves on Game of Thrones."

The Watergarden Inn at the Bay in downtown St. Petersburg welcomed guests with pets when it reopened Monday.

"We previously didn't allow pets. We felt compelled to ensure that everybody is safe and comfortable throughout this whole thing," said manager Julie Will.

The Postcard Inn at St. Pete Beach typically allows pets but is waiving the $75 fee it charges for guests.

After three days without power, Christina Hostetter began calling hotels Wednesday and found most would charge $75 to $100 if she brought Greta, the family's German shepherd. So she made plans to leave the dog with friends who had power and check into the Vinoy with her husband and two daughters.

"We pulled into the Vinoy we saw a half a dozen dogs coming in and out of the hotel. I didn't know when I booked it that I could bring her," she said. "It's one less thing for me and Greta to have to stress about. She's seen us packing and unpacking and she's been miserably hot."