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Pet-friendly American cities

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Where exactly are the most pet-friendly places in the USA? Which U.S. cities are the most dog-friendly? Ask different animal aficionados and fans of four-legged companions what city is the most pet friendly, and you’re bound to get a wide array of answers. But by talking to experts and taking a closer look at recent rankings published by various magazines and Web sites, our country’s pet meccas clearly stand out – some more consistently than others.

Great pet getaways

Pet owners are itching to take Fido and Fluffy with them on pet-friendly vacations. The Travel Industry Association, in fact, reported that 29 million people have taken a pet with them on a trip between 2003 and 2006, and 29 percent lodged in hotels and motels with their pets. Dogs are the most common animal to accompany these travelers (78 percent), followed by cats (15 percent).

If you’re looking for a highly rated pet-friendly town to visit, consider the American Automobile Association’s 2006 listing of the most accommodating cities for travelers with pets. Three Lone Star State cities topped the charts: Houston, San Antonio and Austin, in descending order. Houston placed highest because it boasts 108 pet-friendly available accommodations, two off-leash dog parks and 20 emergency veterinary hospitals. Approximately half of Houston’s hotels allow pets, and the city’s Millie Bush Dog Park is the No. 1 dog park in the country, according to Dog Fancy magazine.

In 2007, DogFriendly.com released its top 10 dog-friendly vacation destinations list. Boston, Mass. placed No. 1, thanks to a number of canine-catering amenities – including a subway system that permits leashed dogs to accompany riders, a red-arrowed path for pooches along the two-mile Freedom Trail, plentiful boat rides and whale-watching tours that welcome pups and much more. Among the other urban hotspots that made the cut were No. 2 Vancouver, British Columbia; No. 3 New York, N.Y.; No. 4 San Francisco, Calif.; and No. 5 Austin, Texas.

Ask Sandy Chio, director of marketing for the Telluride Tourism Board, and she’ll tell you that it’s the town she touts that tourists should make plans to visit with their furry friends.

In Telluride, Colo., “pets are considered more a part of the family,” Chio said. “In fact, Telluride boasts more dogs than people per capita. Here, pets can accompany their owners on trips. Dogs are welcome in more than half of the inns and hotels. The town’s free shuttle bus system helps tired paws by welcoming well-behaved pets on a leash. And there are designated puppy parking spots throughout town.”

Telluride also ranks first on Fido Friendly magazine managing editor Arden Moore’s personal list of favorite cities to travel with pets. Ventura, Calif., is a close second, however. On a recent trip with her dog Chipper, she stayed at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach hotel and fell in love with Ventura, “a beach town that goes gaga over dogs of all sizes,” Moore said.

Towns pet lovers can call their own

If you’re considering a move that will benefit both you and your pets, do your homework, as some cities are more amenable to pets than others.

Greta Gustafson, a dog owner from Seattle, Wash., who has traveled and lived across the United States with her pets, speaks highly of Boulder and Denver, Colo., “where dogs are treated like people. They ride in the front seat of the car and go into local stores to do shopping with their owner.”

In a 2007 list of the country’s best cities for dogs, Dog Fancy named San Diego first, based on a number of key factors including its warm climate, numerous pet-friendly beaches, a shopping center with an off-leash park, and several restaurants that open their doors to pets. Long Beach and Carmel, Calif., round out the top 3.

Colorado Springs, Colo., Portland, Ore., Albuquerque, N.M., Tucson, Ariz., and Seattle, Wash. are, in order, the best cities for dogs, per a recent list published by Men’s Health magazine – which preferred these western state cities based on abundant dog parks, pet stores, animal shelters, veterinarians and boarding/daycare facilities as well as ample room to roam.

Forbes magazine agreed with the latter’s top three choices, selecting Colorado Springs, Portland, and Albuquerque as America’s most pet-friendly cities in 2007. Austin, Texas, came in fourth and Charlotte, N.C., fifth.

Dog- and cat-compassionate cities

Lastly, if animal altruism is important to you, give pause to The Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) 2007 rankings of the nation’s most humane cities. In order, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Washington D.C., and San Diego claimed the top 5 spots. Criteria that the HSUS considered in its “Humane Index” included the policies of locally elected federal officials, animals used in entertainment, and the number of vegetarian restaurants and fur retailers within the municipality.

“Compassionate people thinking of moving to a new city should consider looking at the way a community’s humane values are reflected in all the ways identified by our Humane Index,” said Jennifer Fearing, chief economist for HSUS.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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