- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia Division of Tourism has launched a new campaign that it hopes to get people, or more like pups, barking about.

On Friday the Division of Tourism officially kicked off its “West FURginia Fridays” campaign, which asks people to share photos of their pets exploring parts of West Virginia.

People can enter for a chance to win a custom West FURginia collar by emailing the photo to GoToWV@wv.gov. For a chance to win people need to include their pet’s name, the photo location and their pet’s favorite West Virginia activity. There’s also a chance that submitted photos will be featured on the Division of Tourism’s social media sites, which follow the same hashtag thread, #GoToWV.

The weekly collar winners will be announced on the Division of Tourism’s social media sites every Friday at noon.

Will Miller, Outdoor Recreation Specialist for the Division of Tourism, said the idea originally came from calls received at the state’s tourism call center. They started noticing that more and more people who were calling to get information about visiting parts of West Virginia were asking about pet-friendly places.

Jessica Scowcroft, the executive director of Tucker County’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said - like the statewide call center - their office has also received more pet-friendly directed calls in recent years.

“It’s enough phone calls to be noticed,” Scowcroft said.

And it makes sense.

“Being an outdoor destination, people like to bring their pets along if they are going hiking and biking.”

Because of the number of pet-friendly questions the Tucker County CVB started receiving, Scowcroft and her staff built a list of the pet-friendly places to stay and the pet-friendly hiking trails in Tucker County. Now, if someone calls wanting to know a great place to go hiking with their dog, they’ll be able to tell them.

Miller said the state’s call center hasn’t gotten to that level, yet. But they are currently working to build a comprehensive list of pet-friendly places in West Virginia.

He also said that they eventually hope to include a helpful list/guide on the Division of Tourism’s website, gotowv.com, with pet-friendly lodging, activities and recreational locations.

To announce the West FURginia Days campaign, Miller and his colleagues hosted a press conference in the Division’s headquarters in South Charleston Monday. The press conference embraced the furry-friendly theme by asking Division of Tourism staff members to bring their dog to work. Family dogs ranging from Lulu, the English bulldog, to Bagel, a beagle mix, joined in the press conference festivities.

To celebrate the new campaign, staff members and representatives for the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association made homemade dog treats. Representing the Humane Association, Meghan Smith brought a new shelter puppy with her. His name is Hank. She’s not sure yet what mix of a breed he is.

Smith said she’s glad to hear that more people are interested in taking their dogs on vacation with them.

“A dog should be an addition to your family.”


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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