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by Deb Hipp, The Sparefoot Blog

Not all cities break into a tail-wagging happy dance at the vision of Basset Hounds chilling with their owners at blues festivals or poodles sniffing tomatoes at farmers markets. But some do.

City living can be an adventure for both you and your pet, according to Rose Hamilton, chief marketing officer at Pet360, a network for “pet parents.” Doggie boutiques, off-leash parks and pet cafes are commonplace in plenty of cities, she said.

It takes more than pet stores and parks to make a city pet-friendly, though. Read on for 10 tips to determine how a metropolis really feels about furry family members.

1. Browse the Retail and Restaurant Scenes.

Look for outdoor cafes and open-air markets that welcome dogs. Portland, OR, has “tons of pet-friendly businesses,” including dog day cares, pet-friendly bakeries and acclaimed animal photographers, Hamilton said. Other factors that reveal a pet-loving population: “yappy” hour patio specials at restaurants and bars that welcome dogs, and off-leash parks in urban districts.

2. Gravitate Toward “Guardian” Cities.

At least 22 U.S. cities, including San Francisco and Boulder, CO, refer to pet owners as “pet guardians” in codes and ordinances, according to The Guardian Campaign. The group promotes the term as a step toward responsible treatment of pets—and away from considering dogs and cats as property.

3. Visit Online Community Forums.

Search Pet360’s discussion boards or the forum at City-Data.com to find out how a city’s residents weigh in on:

  • Pet-friendly housing.
  • Veterinary costs.
  • Animal control departments and shelters.
  • Local animal rescue groups.
  • Leash laws and breed bans.

4. Use Social Media.

Post questions on Facebook and Twitter about a city’s pet potential, Hamilton said. “Try hashtagging the city to get advice from locals or pet-friendly businesses,” she said.

5. Get the Scoop on Veterinary Care.

Make sure there are plenty of veterinarians; if you own a rabbit, a bird or an uncommon pet, look for vets with the right expertise. Large cities should have several around-the-clock emergency animal hospitals. It’s a good idea to check whether there are any university-based veterinary hospitals within 100 miles of a targeted city. For example, people in the Denver area drive about an hour to Colorado State University in Fort Collins for specialized pet treatment like biopsies and complex surgeries, said Suellen Scott, director of outreach at Cat Care Society, a cage-free shelter for homeless cats in Lakewood, CO.

6. Keep an Eye Out for Green Space.

Plentiful green space in a city keeps you active and may even help your dog lose a pound or two, Hamilton said. Boulder has more than 144 miles of trails and numerous off-leash dog parks, and Portland, OR, offers more than 30 off-leash dog parks, she said. Check municipal websites for public dog parks, public trails and pet-friendly outdoor activities.

Keep in mind that not all outdoor spaces welcome dogs, though. Some parks and wilderness areas impose restrictions; for instance, Salt Lake City’s watershed ordinance bans dogs from nearly all canyons in the area.

7. Scout Out Pet-Friendly Housing.

Do a Google search for apartments and rental homes that allow pets. If you’re buying a property, remember that condo and homeowners associations often restrict how many pets you can have and what kind.

8. Size Up Public Transportation.

Look for cities that allow leashed canine passengers on public transit during off-peak hours, like Boston’s “T” system and San Francisco’s Muni system. Check out DogFriendly.com’s list of dog-friendly public transportation in the U.S. and Canada.

9. Familiarize Yourself With Local Laws.

Research municipal websites for laws on leashes, vaccinations, pet limits and banned breeds. For example, Denver bans Pit Bull Terriers. About 75 breeds are prohibited in various U.S. cities, according to Responsible Dog Owners of the Western States. “A quick call, email or maybe a tweet to the local animal control or Humane Society can save you some trouble and possibly quite a bit of money,” Hamilton said.

10. Check Out Pet Groups and Events.

Visit Meetup.com to find dog-walking groups, cat clubs and breed aficionados. Lots of cities offer dog-inclusive festivals, pet fairs and music festivals where you can hang out with your mutt. Pet businesses and animal rescue groups sponsor most of these events, said Len Kain, editor of DogFriendly.com, which offers city and travel guides for dog owners. He recommends that you also look for events that are not pet-focused but that let you bring your dog, such as 10K and 5K runs, flea markets and art fairs.