Airbnb is looking to change the way travelers view animal experiences while abroad. The travel company on Thursday launched Animal Experiences to make finding ethical excursions involving some of the world's most intriguing animals easier to find.
"With technology taking up so much of our lives, it's easy to feel disconnected from nature and animals," said Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO and Co-Founder. "Life is better with animals, but for many busy people, looking at them through a screen is the closest they can get. With Airbnb Animal Experiences, locals and travelers are just a few clicks away from being alongside them in the real world."
Airbnb partnered with World Animal Protection to launch the activities, which range from paddleboarding with corgis in Florida to rescuing puppies from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The company is working with biologists, conservationists and animal lovers to provide access to more than 300 species.
World Animal Protection, an international animal welfare organization, created the guidelines that every activity must follow to be part of the program. "We believe all animals should be respected for their intrinsic value and role in the global ecosystem, so experiences that violate these guidelines or otherwise threaten the welfare and/or conservation of animals will be removed from Airbnb," the company said.
The rules are strict. Airbnb doesn't allow experiences involving wild animals, with the exception of some nonprofits conducting research. For experiences involving animals in captivity, the animals must have adequate food, water and comfort. Many "sanctuaries" are not allowed to participate if they are involved in any unethical practices.
Guidelines are even stricter for domesticated and farmed animals such as horses, as well as zoos, aquariums and dog sledding facilities. Marine mammals being held in captivity for entertainment will never be featured on the site.
Many animal interactions are prohibited altogether, including elephant riding, selfies with big cats, animal amusement parks, petting zoos and exotic pet cafes. Rather than highlighting animals in captivity, many excursions encourage joining researchers to study them in the wild.
"Animals should be appreciated for their intrinsic value and this new animal welfare policy has been designed to ensure their wellbeing at all times," Airbnb said. "You will never find an Airbnb Experience where you can kiss a dolphin or ride an elephant."
Airbnb isn't the only travel company focusing on animal ethics as of late.
On Wednesday,it would stop ticket sales to theme parks and other tourist attractions that breed or import whales, dolphins and porpoises for public viewing.
The Humane Society of the United States said the initiatives by Airbnb and TripAdvisor are an encouraging step toward a world free of animal cruelty. "But we are also aware that this fight is far from over," Humane Society CEO Kitty Block said in a statement. "Most people love animals, and, if given the information and the opportunity, would love to interact with them in ways that do not harm the animals, creating a better experience for everyone involved."