Airbnb’s New Animal Experiences Offer Ethical Ways to Interact With Nature

All 1,000 experiences on Airbnb that involve domestic animals or wildlife are now underpinned by a new animal welfare policy created in partnership with the nonprofit World Animal Protection organization.

Airbnb’s New Animal Experiences Offer Ethical Ways to Interact With Nature

Join Mr. Beaches the corgi on a paddleboarding tour of Fort Lauderdale.

Courtesy of Airbnb

Animal tourism has come under intense scrutiny in recent years as travelers increasingly turn away from experiences in which wildlife are held captive in inhumane conditions. In January 2014, the world’s largest adventure travel company, Intrepid, stopped offering elephant rides on its tours, and this June, Canada passed legislation that banned keeping marine mammals—including dolphins, whales, and porpoises—in captivity for entertainment purposes.

Just a day after TripAdvisor announced it would stop selling tickets to attractions that breed or buy whales or dolphins, Airbnb took its own stance on animal welfare in tourism by launching Airbnb Animal Experiences as a brand-new category on its site. Instead of banning elephant rides and marine mammal interactions, Airbnb created a comprehensive animal welfare policy in partnership with the nonprofit World Animal Protection organization that underpins all new and existing animal experiences bookable on its site.

“We know people love animals and want to see and experience them when they travel, but we also know they most want to see animals in a setting that respects their well-being,” said Alesia Soltanpanah, executive director of World Animal Protection, in a statement. “This new animal welfare policy . . . will ensure that adventurers have many options to experience the beauty of animals in a way that considers their welfare first.”

You can read the new animal welfare policy that all new and existing experiences will be held to in full on, but here are some of the highlights:

  • There will be no direct contact with wild animals including, but not limited to, petting, feeding, or riding animals.
  • Wild animals will also not be allowed as selfie props.
  • Any animals trained using any negative training techniques will also not be allowed.
  • Working animals will be limited to carrying just one rider whose weight doesn’t exceed 20 percent of the animal’s weight.
  • Marine mammals will not be allowed to be kept in captivity for entertainment.
  • All elephant rides, big cat interactions, illegal wildlife trade, sporting events such as canned and trophy hunting, and animals performing for entertainment will be banned from Airbnb.

With those rules in mind, you can now book 1,000 Animal Experiences with over 300 species (and their human advocates) knowing that you’ll be connecting with domestic animals or observing wildlife in a way that doesn’t do any harm to them.

Here are the ones that we’d love to book right now:

This intrepid pup will keep you company while you SUP.

This intrepid pup will keep you company while you SUP.

Courtesy of Airbnb

Paddleboard Tours With a Corgi

Fort Lauderdale, United States

Navigating a stand-up paddleboard through Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Canals is a pleasant enough way to spend an hour on your next vacation. But accompanied by host Natasha and her Pembroke Welsh corgi named Mr. Beaches? Well, that sounds like a nearly perfect afternoon. The only thing that could make it better is a manatee sighting—which has been known to happen.

Book Now: $47 per person,

Discover Arctic Foxes

Isafjorour, Iceland

During this hike, which is limited to groups of no more than five people, you’ll have the chance not only to observe the dark brown Arctic foxes from afar in their natural habitat in northwestern Iceland but also possibly see whales, seals, and eagles along the way, too.

Book Now: $200 per person,

Afternoon Tea With Naughty Sheep

Loch Lomond, Scotland

While you enjoy a traditional tea in a Scottish garden, two naughty pet Herdwick sheep named Hamish and Dougal will come join you for snuggles—and will also probably try to steal your crumpets. In addition to this very baaaad company, you might also get to bottle feed any new lambs at the farm.

Book Now: $41 per person,

Dogs of Chernobyl

Chernihiv, Ukraine

If you watched HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries earlier this year, then you know the devastating consequences that abandoned dogs faced after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Today, the descendants of the animals that survived still live in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and have to fight for food, water, and shelter. During this Airbnb Animal Experience, groups of up to three can join the Clean Futures Fund and its Dogs of Chernobyl program to help feed dogs that live in the exclusion zone.

This is one of over 100 Airbnb Animal Experiences that has been designated a social impact experience, which means that 100 percent of what you pay goes directly to the nonprofits that run them. The Clean Futures Fund also operates human health programs for Chernobyl workers and sick children in areas affected by the nuclear disaster.

Book Now: $380 per person,

>> Next: These Visionaries Are Helping to Protect the Planet for Tomorrow’s Travelers

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at Afar who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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