Americans sure do love their our pets. From dogs and cats to small pets, we choose to share our lives with animals of all shapes and sizes. And the number of households with pets is only growing. Between March 2020 and May 2021, about 23 million households brought new pets into their homes. The data shows that most of them (about 90%) are in it for the long haul.
However, after the honeymoon stage, the reality of pet ownership can hit hard—even for people with no desire to give up their pets. Controlling landlords, unfriendly legislation, and a lack of facilities can leave new pet owners looking for more understanding climes. Alternatively, maybe you’re looking at shaking things up with a big cross-country move and want to know if your target city has a good reputation among others with fur babies.
But what makes a good pet-friendly city? For some, it may be access to dog parks or nice walking trails. Others may prioritize areas where a high number of rental properties allow pets. Likewise, cities with fewer restrictions—such as on certain dog breeds or exotic pet bans—may be your best bet if your pets tend to be misunderstood by others.
12. Portland, Oregon
If your priority is a place with lots of activities that you can share with your dog, then Portland may be a great Pacific Northwest destination for both of you. With more dog parks per person than any other city in the US, as well as access to countless hiking trails in the wilder areas nearby, there are plenty of options for getting out, about, and smelling the smells. Also known for a bustling cultural scene, there are plenty of music venues, art shows, and readings to keep your mind active while your pup takes a snooze.
If you’re more of a cat person, have no fear. Portland scores in the 92nd percentile for cat friendly housing, making it easy to find a place where you can cuddle up with your feline friend during that long, dark northwest winter while your friends with dogs are taking them out in the rain.
11. Austin, Texas
Austin is famous for beautiful weather, scenic parks, and beautiful riverfront walks—all of which are great places to bring your pup. Be mindful of the summer temp if you and your dog are used to colder climes (and don’t forget sunblock), but Austin’s generally beautiful weather means there’s rarely a bad time for outs.
A quick heads up—Austin is famous for its bat population, but they are closely monitored by a city veterinarian and pose no increased danger to people or dogs.
10. Birmingham, Alabama
Petlisted.com has Birmingham at the top of their list for cat-friendliness. Over 81% of rental apartments in the area allow cats, and an overall lower cost of living than in coastal regions or large northern cities means pet-owners have more expendable income to spend on their furry family members. Whether this means shopping at any of Birmingham’s many pet stores, or paying the adoption fee at one of the city’s animal shelters.
Birmingham is great for dogs, too. The warm temperatures year-round make going for outs more comfortable, and numerous amenities around the city make it easy to go on adventures with your pup. There are numerous off-leash dog parks within the city limits, as well as walking trails through shaded wooded areas. When you’re done, cool off at one of the local dog-friendly breweries with a beer for yourself and some fresh, cool water for your pooch.
9. Boston, Massachusetts
The historic Freedom Trail is right in the heart of the city and might not be the best option for dogs that are traffic shy, but they are also welcome in the Boston Public Garden for a calmer walk. A number of local bars and hotels are also dog friendly—and it’s hard to go anywhere in Boston without finding an exciting historical landmark.
Keep in mind that rent is pretty high in the area, so it can be challenging to find a permanent residence there with or without pets, but it’s not impossible.
8. Las Vegas, Nevada
Sometimes, the freest places are also the most understanding. Las Vegas may be known as a legendary vacation destination, but it’s also one of the best places in the country to have any dog you want (as well as some other more atypical pets). Not only does Nevada state law prohibit local breed bans, meaning your pitty is safe pretty much wherever you go in the state, Las Vegas has some of the laxest exotic pet rules on the books, making it a great choice for small pet and reptile owners.
While the hot summer temps may be a little intimidating, Las Vegas is positioned in the middle of some truly spectacular hiking country for you and your dog. Recreation is the city’s bread and butter, and there’s lots of desert fun to be had for dog-having visitors and locals alike.
7. Seattle, Washington
Bouncing back up to the Pacific Northwest, we have Seattle. Even though Seattle is another one with a challenging housing market, no one can deny that Seattleites love their pets. Maybe it’s the countless beautiful hiking spots in the Cascades just a short drive away from the city, or maybe it’s the joy of spending a cold winter day with a cat on your lap.
While any big city can be difficult for some pets, Seattle’s many dog parks, doggy daycares, and dog-friendly cafes work to help keep the city habitable for pups.
6. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Visiting or living in Colorado Springs means never needing to choose between city life and access to nature, and where there’s lots of outdoor space, there are lots of opportunities for dogs and dog owners to take in the sights. Not only are there plenty of dog parks in the city, but plenty of state and national parks within driving distance, all of which have few dog restrictions or clearly designated dog-friendly zones.
One highlight is The Garden of The Gods, a national landmark with over 20 miles of hiking trails for leashed dogs. Other great treks for you and your canine companion include Seven Falls, Pike National Forest, and more. Whether you’re looking to visit or stay a lifetime, Colorado Springs is great for dog owners who also happen to be outdoor enthusiasts.
5. Atlanta, Georgia
With typically gentle winters and a cityscape full of vegetation, Atlanta can be a great place to have a dog. As the city has expanded and developed, so too have the accommodations for dogs within the city limits, including parks and more recreational options that allow dogs on-site.
Rent will also be generally cheaper than in other parts of the country, meaning that you could have more places to choose from within your budget if you’re planning on moving there.
4. Ocala, Florida
Not everyone has dogs and cats. Some people’s animal companions are a little…bigger. Ocala is known as the Horse Capital of the World, with more horses in Marion county than anywhere else in the country. There are equestrian events for riders of all disciplines and skill levels, and there are plenty of horse-accessible options whether you’re looking for property or boarding.
With its wide-open spaces, the area is also great for dogs—assuming they won’t freak out about the 1,000lb guinea pigs they’ll share the trails with in Ocala National Park.
One downside to Florida is that it’s not an especially great place for reptile keepers. Recent bans on tegus and some pythons have left people scrambling to rehome their cold-blooded pets, so if you think the ban may apply to you, Florida may not be the best option.
3. Knoxville, Tennessee
Based strictly on infrastructure, Knoxville is pretty great for pet-owners. Not only does the city have a lot of vets, pet stores, and boarding kennels per capita, they also make it easy for people to bring well-behaved dogs to patio restaurants. For a one-time fee, dog parents can get a permit to bring their dog with them to certain outdoor eateries. Almost like a pup passport!
2. San Diego, California
San Diego loves your dog almost as much as you do. Soak up some rays and enjoy some classic California beach time with your pup, including everything from surfing to exploring the waters via kayak. If you’re more of a land lover, there are plenty of dog parks within the city limits, dog-friendly eateries and beer gardens, as well as walking paths. San Diego also comes with that classic California weather, making it easy to have outdoor adventures all year long.
One downside is that it may be a little more difficult to find a rental if you’re looking to stay. San Diego has one of the most competitive real estate markets in the country, and California has no law on the books preventing local breed bans. However, San Diego still ranks 4th best for dog owners in the country.
1. New York City, New York
Okay, it may not feel like New York City belongs on this list, but hear us out. It may not be the easiest city to find housing, and it is the quintessential concrete jungle—save for beautiful Central Park in the middle of Manhattan, which comes with miles of wonderful walking trails. And new rules don’t always make it easy for big dog owners — though dedicated people have found ways around some changes.
The simple truth is that people in NYC love their dogs, and many businesses have sprung up to make apartment life as easy as possible for people who have pets of all shapes and sizes.