By Dr. Becker
Each year, Dog Fancy magazine polls its readers to build a list of the canine-friendliest U.S. cities. Then the magazine’s staff researches each suggested city to see how it measures up based on certain criteria, including dog-centered activities, dog-friendly businesses, dog parks, veterinary specialists, pro-dog legislation, and rescue programs.
From this information, the magazine whittles down the list to the top 5 cities, and awards 1 of the 5 the honor of “DogTown USA.”
2014’s Most Dog-Friendly Cities
Austin, Texas. Austin takes top honors as Dog Fancy’s 2014 DogTown USA. Austin is considered the nation’s largest no-kill city, meaning no animal is killed simply for being homeless. In fact, the city celebrated its three-year no-kill anniversary this year. To meet that goal, Austin’s residents volunteer in record numbers to keep the city’s homeless animals safe.
Austin offers 12 off-leash dog parks, which include 6 trekking trails, 4 open-space, and 2 fenced parks. Dogs are allowed to play and swim off-leash on Red Bud Isle and certain areas of Lady Bird Lake in the downtown area.
Several restaurants, coffee shops, and stores in Austin are pet-friendly, and for visitors to the city, there’s dog-friendly lodging available. There are also lots of animal activities and fundraisers held throughout the year, including organized dog walks and a pet parade and costume contest.
Leashed dogs are welcome at many popular venues across Austin, and a group called the RuffTail Runners makes sure several hundred shelter dogs get regular exercise and socialization opportunities.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In this city rich with Civil War history, dogs get to accompany their guardians on many historical tours and outings, for example, a visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park.
Dog-friendly hotels and restaurants are plentiful, and in nearby Michaux State Forest, dogs can hike with their owners. Gettysburg also recently opened a dawn-to-dusk dog park with sections for small and large dogs, and has plans to add a dog washing area and agility equipment.
There are also a number of special dog-inclusive events held throughout the year, including the annual Loyalty Walk, which benefits the area’s homeless animals.
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minneapolis re-homes over 75 percent of dogs that wind up at city shelters, and it also has the only public shelter in the state that provides no-cost kenneling for the dogs of victims of domestic violence.
Minneapolis has 7 dog parks, miles of paved walking and jogging paths, and several dog-friendly trails, including the 63-mile Luce Line State Trail. One of the dog parks, Minnehaha, sits on 6 acres in the center of the city and has walking paths, beaches on the river, trails, climbing areas, and even a waterfall.
Many of the city’s hotels are pet-friendly, and there are several dog-friendly stores and boutiques. Annual activities include the Renaissance Festival Pet Fest, the Dog Day 5K, Pet-A-Palooza, and Woofstock. Several local dog-training facilities offer summer camps for kids and their dogs.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Runner-up for DogTown USA honors is the town of Eureka Springs, which has almost as many dogs (2,000) as people (2,200). The tiny village, nestled in the scenic Ozark Mountains, has dozens of dog-friendly lodgings, stores, and restaurants – including many in the downtown area.
Dogs and their humans can enjoy the trails and lake at Lake Leatherwood City Park, and also spend some time at the newly opened Bark Park, which features small and large dog sections, and future plans to add pools, agility equipment, and an area for adoption and fundraising events.
There’s also the annual Doggie Style Show, which benefits the Good Shepherd Humane Society and showcases adoptable shelter dogs. Good Shepherd found homes for 85 percent of their shelter dogs last year, including almost 60 dogs who found forever homes out-of-state, as far away as New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The shelter operates with a healthy annual budget, raised through memberships, fundraisers, donations, and thrift stores.
Charleston, South Carolina. In Charleston, James Island County Park offers dogs and their humans 4 acres of grass, a large lake, and a Yappy Hour summer music series. Like the other cities in the top 5, Charleston offers dog-friendly hotel accommodations, restaurants, and stores, including the local farmers market.
On warm days, you’ll likely see as many dogs as people in the Folly Beach restaurant district, including at the Lost Dog Café. Dogs with good manners are allowed on some scenic harbor cruises, and small dogs can join in on sailboat rides.
The town’s minor league baseball team has regular dog-friendly ballpark days, and there’s an annual two-day Pet Fest at the Palmetto Islands County Park. And don’t forget Dog Day Afternoon at the local waterpark, an event that invites dogs to play in the wave pool and other water attractions.