The 5 Most Dog-Friendly Cities of 2014

See the cities that made tails-wag in the competion for DogTownUSA.

Each year DOG FANCY asks readers to nominate an American city that represents the very best in dog-friendly lifestyle. With careful research of each city they name the winner based on the presence of dog-centered activities, dog-friendly businesses, dog parks, veterinarian specialists, pro-dog legislation, rescue programs and other doggone important criteria.

When stacked against the country’s top nominees for 2014, five cities stood out above the rest. While only one could be named DogTownUSA, all of these cities are worth a visit!

The 5 Most Dog-Friendly Cities of 2014

Austin, Texas

People: 859,814

Dogs: 193,600  

Texas capital rises above the rest to take the 2014 DogTown USA title>>

Austinites pride themselves on keeping their city weird, their live music thriving, and their dogs by their side. Our 2014 DogTown USA winner also proudly holds the title of the nation’s largest no-kill city, meaning that no animal is killed there simply because he does not have a home. The nonprofit organization Austin Pets Alive! led Austin to this goal in February 2011, and the city recently celebrated its three-year no-kill anniversary.


Austin Dog Town. Courtesy Austin Pets Alive!

Rescued dog Andre Agassi takes center stage at Banger’s restaurant between Lindsay Marsh, co-executive director of RuffTail Runners, and APA! volunteer Shashvat Doorwar. 


“Residents enjoy dog-included activities and events with their dogs, but they also volunteer in record numbers to keep Austin’s homeless animals safe,” says Ellen Jefferson, D.V.M., APA! executive director. “No kill has now become integral to the Austin culture.”

Dog-loving families find opportunities galore in this Texas Hill Country city. “Austin has 12 off-leash dog parks: two fenced, four open space, and six trekking trails,” says Bill Fraser, an advocate with Friends of Austin Dog Parks. Many of Austin’s off-leash areas blend canine companionship with human activity. “In Zilker Park (the city’s 351-acre park), residents play soccer or picnic with their dogs alongside them,” Fraser says. “On the Turkey Creek Trail, dogs can freely hike over two miles with their families, crossing back and forth over streams.”

Although summers are hot in Texas, dogs can get plenty of cool-water play. “On Red Bud Isle, dogs can play and swim off leash, and we have areas allowing access to Lady Bird Lake right in the downtown area,” Fraser says.

Dogs and owners can also go to the many pet-friendly restaurants in Austin, such as Austin Java, Banger’s, Black Sheep Lodge, or Freddie’s, says Shilpa Bakre, senior communications manager for the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau. “At Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, dogs relax on the lakeside tiered decks while owners work on laptops or socialize.”  

Along with spots for dining and drinks, numerous stores in Austin welcome dogs, including Backwoods, an outdoor gear retailer, and the Barnes & Noble bookstore in the Hill Country Galleria. “Customers bring dogs into Austin Tri-Cyclist bike shop almost every day, and they’re usually greeted cheerfully by Indie, our store manager’s 5-year-old Border Collie,” says Missy Ruthven, the shop’s co-owner. Gigi, a 7-year-old Chihuahua, also relaxes on a bed next to the work station of her owner Tim Carr, a bike mechanic. “Our dogs offer us companionship while we work to keep Austin’s many athletes fit, fast, and safe,” Ruthven says.


Austin Dog Town. Courtesy Erik Niells

Rescued dog Andre Agassi takes center stage at Banger’s restaurant between Lindsay Marsh, co-executive director of RuffTail Runners, and APA! volunteer Shashvat Doorwar. 


For travelers, the city offers dog-friendly lodging options such as the Hotel Saint Cecilia and the Hyatt Regency Austin. For tourists and Austinites alike, springtime brings fields of bluebonnets as a backdrop for photography. “The ‘dog-in-the-bluebonnets’ pose is a trademark Austin photo opportunity,” Ruthven says.

Animal activities and fundraisers fill the city’s calendar. Austin’s Mighty Texas Dog Walk, which  boasts thousands of participants, raises money for Service Dogs Inc. Jo’s Coffee puts on an annual pet parade and costume contest, and the Wagathon Walkathon charity dog walk draws hundreds of dogs and owners. “The APA! No-Kill Anniversary Party at the Palm Door, with over 400 people in attendance, wrapped up a three-day, national no-kill conference highlighting innovative programs for becoming a no-kill community,” Jefferson says.

Leashed dogs are welcome in many popular venues. You might see them touring the state capitol grounds, relaxing at the Pecan Street Festival, or watching a million Mexican free-tailed bats soar from the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge during bat season, which runs from early spring to early fall. “The popular annual festival, Blues on the Green at Zilker Park, runs throughout the summer and is perfect for sitting on a blanket with dogs and refreshments, enjoying local music,” Bakre says.

Committed to both fitness and rescue, APA! volunteers jog with rescue dogs on the city’s trails. “The RuffTail Runners program offers our four-legged shelter friends exercise, socialization, and often a dip in the lake or a chance to bark at ducks,” says Lindsay Marsh, co-executive director with RuffTail Runners. “In 2013 shelter dogs went on almost 4,000 runs, averaging 330 per month.”


Ruff Runners. Courtesy Karen Hardwick

 RuffTail Runners jog with rescue dogs along a hike-and-bike trail.


Austin is one of the few cities with an anti-tethering law, and residents can have their dogs microchipped and tagged free of charge by the Austin Animal Center. “Since 2011 no cat, kitten, puppy, small-breed dog, or readily handleable large dog has died in Austin simply because it was homeless,” Jefferson says. “We rely heavily on generous foster homes, and we continually work to cultivate increased adoption rates.” APA! holds regular adoption events and has hundreds of dedicated volunteers. After all, perhaps the only issue Austinites show more passion for than ‘Keeping Austin Weird’ is keeping the city’s animals safe.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

People: 101,407 (Adams County)

Dogs: 63,000

Famous as a Civil War battleground, Gettysburg is also known for its dog-friendliness. “Many historical excursions include the family dog,” says Tammy VanMeter, assistant manager with the Adams County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Gettysburg National Military Park, with more than a thousand statues, sculptures, markers, and tablets, offers many miles for families and dogs to explore. “Visitors can photograph their dog next to the Virginia Memorial, depicting General Robert E. Lee astride his horse Traveller,” VanMeter says.



Courtesy Adams County SPCA


Tourists easily find dog-friendly hotels, including the 1863 Inn of Gettysburg and the Battlefield Bed and Breakfast. “Restaurants such as O’Rorke’s Family Eatery welcome dogs on the patio,” VanMeter says. “The walking Gettysburg ghost tours led by storytellers offer both normal and paranormal fun, as well as history into local battles.”

In the nearby Michaux State Forest, dogs can hike with owners on thousands of acres. “In-town dog parks were the No. 1 request on a Rec Park survey a few years ago,” says Mary Miner, chair of the Gettysburg Area Recreation Authority’s dog park steering committee. In response, Gettysburg will soon be opening a dawn-to-dusk dog park with sections for small and large dogs. “We’re hoping for a dog washing area and agility equipment in our second stage,” Miner adds.



Courtesy Destination Gettysburg

Dogs and owners enjoy walking through the Gettysburg National Military Park.



Gettysburg hosts a myriad of special dog events, including Greyhounds in Gettysburg and rescued Golden Retriever Rusty’s Birthday Bash at the Adams County Winery. “Folks enjoy music and dogs compete in a Rusty look-alike contest, raising money for the ACSPCA,” VanMeter says. The ACSPCA supports the community by running low-cost spay-neuter and rabies clinics. “Dogs can join families on the three-mile annual Loyalty Walk through Gettysburg National Military Park, benefitting the area’s homeless animals,” VanMeter adds.

 In Gettysburg 90 percent of rescue dogs were reclaimed by their owners, adopted, or rescued in 2013. Residents also highly prize the town’s working dogs. “Our top law enforcement officer may be a Belgian Malinois,” VanMeter says. “Sheriff James Muller takes his partner Leggy to schools, educating children on how Leggy helps keep Gettysburg a safe and welcoming town.”

Minneapolis, Minnesota

People: 392,880

Dogs: 105,000

Our northernmost runner-up may often have chilly temperatures, but the city’s dogs find plenty of warm love. The city has seven dog parks, miles of paved paths, and many dog-friendly trails, including the nearby 63-mile Luce Line State Trail.

“Minnehaha Dog Park, with over 6 acres in the heart of Minneapolis, has walking paths, beaches on the river, trails, climbing areas, and a waterfall,” says Jess Kittredge, business manager and trainer with The Canine Coach! dog training. “Owners often walk over from the park to the Sea Salt Eatery, one of our many dog-friendly restaurants.”


Courtesy Jess Kittredge

 An off-leash walk at Minnehaha Dog Park



Loring Park Off-Leash Dog Park sits a stone’s throw from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. “The dog park embraces the artistic side of Minneapolis, with unique landscaping of small boulders, gravel, grass, and dog sculptures,” Kittredge says.

Many of the city’s hotels, including the Grand Hotel Minneapolis, allow dogs. Shoppers with pups can visit dog-friendly stores such as Uniquely Yours Custom Designed Jewelry and Magers & Quinn Booksellers. “Dogs can join owners on horse-driven carriage tours with the Hitching Company,” says Jeanette Wiedemeier Bower, program development coordinator for Minneapolis Animal Care & Control.

Each year Minneapolitans anticipate the Minnesota Renaissance Festival Pet Fest, the Dog Day 5K, and Pet-A-Palooza, which features live music and entertainment. Woofstock welcomes thousands of dog owners and their four-legged friends.



Courtesy Jess Kittredge

Labrador Retriever Dodger plays at the Loring Park Off-Leash Dog Park. 



Minneapolis re-homes 78 percent of dogs that come through its shelters. MACC partners with the Minnesota Spay Neuter Assistance Program to offer low-cost spay-neuter services. “We also have the only municipal shelter in the state offering a no-cost kenneling facility for the dogs of victims of domestic violence,” Wiedemeier Bower says.

Dog fun blends easily with family fun in Minneapolis. “Several local training facilities (including ours) even offer summer camps for kids and their dogs.” Kittredge says. “How cool and dog-friendly is that!”

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

People: 2,200

Dogs: 2,000

A DogTown USA runner-up in 2013, the eclectic little town of Eureka Springs returns to our 2014 winner list with even more dog-friendliness to report. This Victorian village in the scenic Ozark Mountains welcomes dogs in dozens of dog-friendly lodgings, as well as in many stores and restaurants. “Our downtown area is very condensed, with dozens of unique shops such as Glory B’s or Blackie’s Backyard, many of which are dog-friendly,” says Rachel Brix, Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed and chairperson of the Eureka Springs Dog Park Advisory Committee. “Families and their dogs can enjoy Basin Spring Park (home of a legendary healing spring) in the middle of downtown, and then dine at one of over a dozen dog-welcoming restaurants, including New Delhi Cafe & Patio and the Angler’s Grill & Pub.”


Courtesy Rachel Brix



People and pups looking for outdoor recreation opportunities can find them at the 1,600-acre Lake Leatherwood City Park, complete with trails and a lake for swimming. Adding to the fun, Eureka Springs’ new 1-acre dog park is set to open this summer. “We’re naming the new park Bark Park because we believe both trees and dogs make life better,” Brix says. Along with small and large dog areas, future plans for the park include pools, agility equipment, and an area for adoption events and fundraisers.

Each year residents join in the excitement of the Doggie Style Show to benefit the Good Shepherd Humane Society. “This year’s Krewe de Barkus (celebrating Mardi Gras) doubled the canine participation from last year, with shelter dogs leading the parade in their ‘Adopt me’ vests,” Brix says.



Courtesy Rachel Brix 

Residents and their dogs enjoy the shaded patio at Percy’s Grooming & Pet Spa.



Good Shepherd homed 85 percent of the dogs who came through the shelter last year. “We may be a small town, but Good Shepherd’s annual budget is about $320,000, raised through memberships, fundraisers, donations, and thrift stores,” shelter manager Janice Durbin says. In 2013 a local certified dog trainer volunteered at the shelter to train staff for several weeks on dog obedience, helping make the dogs more adoptable. “We look outside of our geographical area when necessary to home all our dogs,” Durbin says. “Last year 57 shelter dogs were homed in states such as New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and this year we’ve already had 38 dogs adopted back east.”

Charleston, South Carolina

People: 365,162 (Charleston County)

Dogs: 35,000

Charming Charleston offers Southern hospitality to dogs as well as humans. “Perhaps the Shangri-la of doggie destinations here is the James Island County Park, offering families with dogs 4 acres of grass, a large lake, and a Yappy Hour summer music series,” says Randolph Pritchard, communications manager for the Charleston Animal Society.

Courtesy Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission

The dog park at James Island County Park 


Hotels such as Belmond Charleston Place and the Wentworth Mansion provide luxurious accommodations for humans and their four-legged friends. Restaurants such as Fuel Caribbean Cantina, East Bay Deli, and Parson Jack’s Café permit dogs on the patio, and Dolittle’s pet supply store, the Charleston Farmers Market, and other businesses welcome shoppers with dogs. “Visit the Folly Beach restaurant area district on a warm, pretty day, and you’re likely to see as many dogs as people,” Pritchard says. “With popular establishments such as the Lost Dog Café offering ample seating for customers and their dogs, it’s obvious why this laid-back beach is considered a doggie mecca.”

Adventure Harbor Tours allows well-behaved dogs on scenic cruises, and small-dog passengers can join in on Charleston Schooner Pride sailboat rides. “Magnolia Plantation and Gardens invites owners to explore the beautiful grounds with dogs,” Pritchard says. “On the Drayton Hall plantation, dogs join families on self-guided walks, exploring the undisturbed historic landscape.”  

 The Charleston RiverDogs minor league baseball team has regular dog-friendly ballpark days, and every spring the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission hosts Pet Fest. “This two-day event at the Palmetto Islands County Park offers demonstrations, entertainment, and dog dock diving,” Pritchard says.

Additionally, Dog Day Afternoon at Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark invites dogs into the wave pool or Otter Bay to beat the heat.

Charleston’s charm extends to homeless dogs. “In 2013 Charleston Animal Society launched No Kill Charleston 2015, the boldest animal rescue initiative undertaken in the Deep South,” Pritchard says. “We actually achieved our goal two years early.”

According to Pritchard, Charleston Animal Society took in 90 percent of the community’s unwanted animals, and saved every healthy or treatable dog entering the shelter in 2013. 


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