by Vance Cope, Contributing Writer
Walt Disney World's newest resort opened on September 1, offering luxurious suites, exclusive water park, and full-service salon. If you're hoping to book a room there for yourself, though, you're out of luck; all of the amenities are for pets. Located on a 50,000-square-foot complex across from the Port Orleans Riverside Resort, Best Friends Pet Care opened its new pet boarding and daycare center, offering a wide variety of accommodations and services for up to 300 dogs, cats, and "pocket" pets.
Inside the 17,000-square-foot, air-conditioned building, Best Friends has made sure to provide all the comforts for its four-legged guests.
Best Friends CEO Dennis Dolan, Pluto, Disney Parks & Resorts Vice President for Operating Participants Phil Bernard and Walt Disney World Ambassador Vanessa Rosas stand in the lobby, which features a giant paw print-shaped window that looks into an indoor play area, as they preside over the center's opening ceremonies. Photo by Vance Cope.
Best Friends offers a variety of options for boarding your dog:
- All-indoor suite – includes a pet cot and two walks a day ($37 per day, $34 for WDW Resort guests)
- Indoor-outdoor suite – includes a pet cot and one walk a day, as well as unlimited access to an outdoor personal pet patio ($40 per day, $36 for WDW Resort guests)
- Vacation villa – includes a raised platform bed, flat panel TV (showing dog-themed Disney movies), private outdoor patio, two walks a day, a play group session, and an ice cream treat each night ($59 per day, $53 for WDW Resort guests)
- VIP (Very Important Pet) suite – includes all the amenities of the Vacation Villa unit, as well as an additional play session, bed time stories, and a go-home-fresh bath for dogs who stay at least three nights ($76 per day, $69 for WDW Resort guests)
Best Friends also offers an a la carte menu for additional services and activities:
- Playgroup (interactive group play with a group of selected dogs) – $15 for 30 minutes
- Playtime (includes fetch, tug, and other activities) – $8 for 10 minutes
- Cuddle time (belly rubs and back scratches) – $8 for 10 minutes
- Walk & explore – $8 for 10 minutes
- Bottled water – $5 per day
- Premium bed – $5 per day
- Ice cream (a frozen soy milk treat with a cookie topping designed specifically for canines) – $4 each
- Bedtime story – $6 each
Along with overnight boarding and daycare services, the complex also offers a full-service grooming salon and two 1,100-square-foot doggy day camp rooms.
Outside is a private 25,000-square-foot, fully fenced, off-leash dog park reserved for the exclusive use of the canine patrons at Best Friends.
The dog park includes a walking trail along the perimeter of the park, a play area covered in artificial grass, a grassy knoll with shade trees, and a 1,300-square-foot “Splash and Play” water feature for dogs.
Feline guests of Best Friends have their own section called Kitty City. Capable of boarding 30 cats at a time, Kitty City is separated away from the sights, sounds, and smells of the dogs. While cat owners don't have as many options as dog owners, they do have a couple of choices in their lodging. Cats are housed in fully enclosed spaces with glass windows so they look out into the rest of Kitty City:
- Two-level condo – $23 per day, $21 for WDW Resort guests
- Four-level condo – $32 per day, $30 for WDW Resort guests
A la carte offerings for cats include:
- Playtime – $8
- Cookies and milk – $3
- Tuna on a Ritz (all-white albacore tuna on a cracker) – $3
- Activity toy – $3
- Deluxe kitty bed – $5
Best Friends Pet Care also has a room set aside for “pocket pets” such as hamsters, rabbits, ferrets, and fish for those who wish to board their smaller animals. Owners must provide all of their own housing/cages, supplies (such as food and bowls) and bedding (such as litter and wood shavings) for their pets during their stay. Fees range from $12 to $23 ($10 to $21 for Resort guests) per day depending on size and type. Best Friends does not accept exotics, venomous animals, or primates for boarding.
For those not wishing to board their pets overnight, daycare and daycamp rates are available based on the amount of time your pet is present and the type of accommodations your pet uses during that time. Daycare includes boarding in a doggy suite, while day camp is a "group socialization session where dogs spend the day in exercise and play with other dogs under the supervision of a trained counselor," and requires that the dog be spayed or neutered. On a space available basis, dogs boarded for daycare can participate in day camp as well.
In case the facilities aren't enough by themselves, you can also buy treats and accessories for your pet.
Best Friends is open every day of the week, and opens an hour before the earliest park opening through one hour after park closing, with the facility staffed around the clock in case of emergencies. Check-out time for all overnight guests is noon, unless you wish to take advantage of the daycare services. Dogs must be current on Rabies, DHPP, and Bordetella vaccines, while cats must be current on Rabies and FVRCP.
Best Friends, who has operated all of the kennels in Walt Disney World for the past two and a half years, has closed all of the other kennels on property as of September 3 with the opening of this larger and more central location.
Discounts for multiple pets sharing the same suite are available, and if you are a Disney Vacation Club member or an Annual Passholder, be sure to let the staff know when checking in and you will receive a $2 discount (if you are staying on property, this discount is in addition to the discounted Resort guest rate). Best Friend Pet Care coupons from out of state are not accepted. For more details on reservations, pricing, services and hours check their Web site (link) or call 1-877-4WDW-PETS.
[Editor's note: The phone number provided is toll-free, but is 8 digits long and does not follow the standard phone number format. We have confirmed that both 1-877-493-9738 and 1-877-493-97387 will reach the correct line, however some cell phones may interpret the last number (7) incorrectly. If that happens, please call 1-877-493-9738, and leave off the last 7, or add the number in your address book simply as 1-877-4WDW-PET, singular.]