Welcome to DogTown USA™ 2008

Colorado Springs, Colo., takes dog-friendliness to new heights.

Whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot about dogs. And for dog owners looking to supersize their bliss, nothing beats living in a city that embraces all things dog.

For this year’s installment of DogTown USA, we set out to identify the country’s best places to live with dogs.

We looked for ample dog-friendly open spaces, plenty of dog parks, cool events that celebrate dogs and their owners, high vet-to-dog ratios, abundant pet supply and service businesses, and municipal laws that support and protect all pets.

Our research uncovered a wide range of locations, from beach towns to mountain metropolises, and everything in between. But no matter how different these cities appear on the surface, they share one common bond: an unshakable devotion to dogs and the people who find happiness with them.

DOGTOWN USA: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Human population: 402,417
Dog population: 87,055
To live here: Median price of a single-family home: $225,900
To visit here: Lodging and meals for two adults: $240.21 per day, according to AAA.
Sunny days: 250
Wagging rights: Pro-dog attitude; plenty of dog-friendly outdoor activities and events; high vet-to-dog ratio; enviable shelter statistics; natural beauty.

Welcome to Colorado Springs, where the livin’ is easy — for dogs and dog people. Dogs live in one of every two Colorado Springs households, and it’s no wonder. This picturesque city, 60 miles south of Denver, boasts tons of dog-pleasing amenities, including miles of dog-friendly open spaces and businesses, five dog parks, and a high “pet capita” ratio of vets to dogs. Read on for eight reasons to love Colorado Springs.

1. Lots of dog lovers
More than 50 percent of Colorado Springs households own at least one dog, trouncing the national average of 39 percent. All that fur means plenty of companionship for your pooch, and neighbors who won’t look at you sideways when you announce plans to take your dog on a cross-country vacation. “When I moved here, it seemed like every car I saw had a dog’s head hanging out the window,” says Ann Davenport, director of community resources for the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region in Colorado Springs.

2. Abundant veterinarians
Colorado Springs is home to some 125 veterinarians, including about a dozen board-certified specialists, one of the highest per capita rates in the country. Why so many vets? “We have a great quality of life here,” says Anne Pierce, DVM, of High Plains Veterinary Hospital. “We also have a well-educated population, which means we have clients who are interested in good medical care for their animals. It’s definitely not just ‘give my dog a pill’ — our clients want good preventive care, good geriatric care.”

3. Outdoorsy, healthy lifestyle
“I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place where so many people hike with their dogs. They seem to be everywhere,” Davenport says. Snow or shine, “they’re out there on the trail. And I think that’s so great because people are getting out and exercising with their pets.” Maybe that’s why 91 percent of the city’s population claims to be in good health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

4. Dog parks galore
The city has five dog parks and more than 10,000 acres of public park space, which means almost a 10th of an acre per person. Off-leash dogs are welcome in several hiking areas, including the city-owned 1,300-acre Garden of the Gods Park, a National Natural Landmark filled with towering red rock formations. Barr Trail, which climbs 14,110-foot Pikes Peak and is one of the inspirations for the song “America the Beautiful,” ranks as a popular spot for leashed dogs.

5. Tough anti-cruelty laws
Colorado Springs imposes serious jail time and heavy fines for animal cruelty. The highest maximum fine for animal cruelty can approach $100,000, Davenport says. For repeat offenders, that number can climb to half a million bucks.

6. Impressive shelter statistics
The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region saves 83 percent of its dogs — an impressive number. The shelter also serves as an important advocate for area pets, not just those housed within its walls. Last year, HSPPR’s educational task force visited hundreds of area schools, churches, and daycares to talk to more than 12,000 children about compassion and respect for animals. Other HSPPR initiatives include Safe Pets, a program that provides long-term foster care for domestic violence victims’ pets, and a hiking and trail manners class for mountain-bound owners and dogs.

7. Tail-wagging dog events
When Colorado Springs dog lovers aren’t hitting nearby trails or picturesque parks, they have lots of dog-centric events to choose from, including Romp in the Park, an annual festival that features a dog-owner look-alike contest and a doggie water park. Dogs are even welcome at SkySox Stadium, home to Colorado Springs’ AAA baseball team.

8. Plenty of dog-friendly businesses 
The historic Broadmoor Hotel’s canine-friendly amenities include in-room pet beds, doggie room service, and pet sitting. Chris Stahl, operations manager for Wag N’ Wash in downtown Colorado Springs says, “People spend their weekends hiking with their dogs and come in here to get them clean.” The self- and full-service grooming salon and boutique, founded in 1996, has grown along with the city’s pet- and outdoor-loving population, and now has two locations in Colorado Springs, and several more throughout the state. At open-air mall Promenade Shops at Briargate, shoppers can browse with their dogs at stores like Pottery Barn and Banana Republic.

“Dogs really are like family here,” Davenport says.

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