Will Trantham and his wife adopted Jackson, left, after meeting the Shih Tzu at a hotel in Asheville, North Carolina. Jackson is now part of the family, along with Darcy, center, and Sophie. (Jan Trantham/Associated Press)

At this hotel, guests are welcomed with a wagging tail or a warm lick to the face.

A dog will bound out from behind the registration desk, clad in an “Adopt Me” vest, as visitors arrive at a hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, believed to be the only one in the United States where guests can adopt the dog that greets them when they check in.

But the hotel doesn’t overwhelm road-weary travelers to this town, where people come to tour the nation’s largest privately owned home, the Biltmore Estate. There’s only one adoptable dog at a time, and it’s always on a leash.

The pooches at the Aloft Asheville Downtown are part of an adoption program run by the hotel and Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue. The organization saves the pets from possibly being put to sleep at area shelters.

“We feel like we are saving lives,” said Christine Kavanagh, Aloft’s director of sales.

John Ferris and his wife adopted Ginger after meeting the terrier mix at the Asheville hotel, which encourages guests to meet dogs that need a home. (CAREN FERRIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Hotel and rescue workers hope the program not only becomes permanent but also spreads to some of the chain’s other locations. (There are several Aloft hotels in the Washington area.)

The Asheville hotel, which also allows guests’ pets to stay for free, opened in 2012 and has not received one complaint about allergies, messes or dueling dogs, Kavanagh said.

The adoptable dogs have space set aside at the registration desk, on the roof, on the third floor and in certain employee areas. They can’t stay in guest rooms at night but can go with visitors to the restaurant, bar and other spots if they’re on a leash.

“The guests love it,” Kavanagh said.

Caren Ferris of Amherst, Massachusetts, and her husband certainly did. The couple were staying near the Asheville hotel when they met a 4-year-old terrier mix named Ginger in the Aloft bar and cozied up to the pooch, who was sporting an “Adopt Me” vest.

After a visit, “I got up to leave and told her goodbye. She sat up, looked me in the eye and kissed me on the lips. So I called the shelter, thinking maybe we should adopt the dog,” Ferris said.

She and her husband filled out the adoption papers, paid $175 in fees and waited to be approved before they were able to take Ginger home to meet their other dogs.

Charlie’s Angels has tough adoption standards, including a home visit. If a potential owner is from another state, the rescue will ask a shelter there to do the check.

The restrictions haven’t stopped 14 dogs from finding homes since the program started in July, said Kim Smith, president of Charlie’s Angels. The rescue’s placements have doubled since the hotel started stationing the dogs.

Jan Trantham and her husband, who live in Atlanta, Georgia, adopted a 2-year-old Shih Tzu (pronounced SHE-dzoo) named Jackson. They fell in love with him when they checked in, she said.

“Every time we went somewhere, one of us would say, ‘Let’s go back to the hotel and see Jackson.’ I couldn’t stop thinking about this dog,” Trantham said.

It’s also a wonderful way for the dogs — and the guests — to socialize, Kavanagh said.

“We have a little playpen by the front desk. At times, there’s a crowd around the pen because the dog is a conversation starter,” Kavanagh said. “Our hotel draws people together so they can mix and mingle and maybe adopt a dog.”

Associated Press