Like I said yesterday I am going to discuss dog friendly cities today. I want to talk about what dog friendly means; it can mean a lot of different things to different people. I often see "dog friendly" signs or statements on websites and shops but with further investigation it really means one tiny dog can accompany you if they are in a cage or bag type thing. This to me is not dog friendly; it is merely an attempt at creating a dog friendly appearance so as to fool the general public. If you happen to be one of these pocket pooch carrying types then it will be great for you and your dog but not the rest of us.
For me, dog friendly means open arm welcoming of friendly dogs; any size, shape or color. Now with regards to a city being dog friendly, this encompasses a great deal more. Does the city have areas where dogs can run free? Can you have your dog join you at outdoor cafe's around town? Dog friendly cities tend to hold more than the average amount of dog events which brings out the dog lovers.
Not too long ago I had a fabulous trip to Victoria which is on Vancouver Island, BC. I have to say that it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. To top off the natural beauty it was very dog friendly. There were dogs everywhere and when we ventured just outside of the city limits there was a fabulous walk along the coast where all the dogs were off leash. I was so happy to see this; dogs wandering along with their human companions meeting and greeting other dogs as they passed. No fences, no restrictions, no tension, just fabulous. One of my readers wrote about Vancouver and it's dog friendliness. Four paws up for the Vancouver area.
More recently I was in San Fran and it too was very dog friendly. I found lots of new dog shops to snoop around in; one of which I found Jessie's cute little harness. Every shop, hotel and restaurant had water bowls outside and there were dogs everywhere. Running on the beach off leash, is there anything better? I had the chance to talk to several dog owners who were enjoying the freedom of a beach run. I really enjoyed San Francisco as well.
NYC, the big apple is very dog friendly. Having just visited a couple of weeks ago I was introduced to a very different sort of life. Apartment dwelling with dogs; not for me but lots of people do it. There I saw dogs of all shapes and sizes out for their walks on the streets. With taxis honking, trucks booming by and people covering the streets they seemed quite happy. In the core of the city is Central park; there we saw more dog enjoying life with their humans. Unfortunately I did not get to see the dog park there, apparently there is one at the other end from where we were, nice.
What about Southern California; here where I live in the heart of Orange County? It's pretty good as far as being dog friendly but there needs to be more wild areas where dogs can accompany you. The beach towns are pretty dog friendly allowing dogs on most patios to dine along with you. Dogs are allowed on many beaches, leashed but not during peek summer hours. There are a couple of dog beaches which are always crowded with dogs having fun. The problem is the number of people vs. the number of dog parks. I often visit dog parks for photo shoots and high traffic hours can make a good place a bad place. Too many dogs shoved into a park makes for high stress level and lots of fights.
My biggest beef is that there are literally thousands of acres of open scrub land where dogs are not even allowed. I've done a great deal of driving around the OC when I was looking for places to shoot for my book "Dogs in the OC." Many of the largest natural parks do not allow dogs. I get the leash law thing but no dogs even on leashes? I really cannot wrap my head around that. One day I stood at the opening to a park, it was all natural; wild land, as far as I could see. Untouched by the developers yet and there was a big sign right there before you went in NO DOGS. I stood staring at the sign; really? I didn't have my dogs I was just looking for shoot spots, but left scratching my head.
The shelter system, that alone speaks volumes about a city. Is it a high kill city? Scooping all the stray dogs in only to end it all? Or does your city have a great shelter with caring folks to take the time to rehabilitate and rehome? Perhaps they have a great connection with the local rescues working to save as many as they can? I know for one shelter here in Orange County; calling a rescue about a dog needing to be placed was a big no no and I was seriously reprimanded about it. Another mind boggling incident.
What some of my readers had to say.
Katie says: We're in the Dayton, Ohio area and I've found that dogs are allowed in alot of places-you just have to ask (you never know if you don't). We have an outdoor mall type shopping center and almost all of the shops (like Gap, White House Black Market, etc...) are pet friendly; and alot of the restaurants have outdoor patio seating so that Fido can join.
Angela wrote: Perth, Western Australia....absolutely NOT dog friendly....no dogs allowed in pubs, cafes, restaurants, some parks, shopping centres, public transport, taxis and many more places. Dog friendly parks are rare, mostly on-leash only, never fenced for safty, hardly any trees so not good in summer with up to 45 degrees and agressive sun. only 3 very small areas at the beach for gods. Heard that it is more friendly over east in the Melbourne area.... So Western Australia is NOT a place you want live if you are a dog lover.
Malory says: Dogs are a commonplace out here in South Carolina, however, their views on how dogs are to be treated are very different than how I was raised to believe in California. Dogs are "just dogs" out here. The ones that REALLY take care of their dogs are hunters with hunting dogs. I've noticed not a lot of dog savvy people live out here. I have never had any real issues with Bravo though.
Carol said: St. Louis is about a 7 in my books, but improving rapidly. It's headquarters for Purina and the Purina Farms Event Center, home of the national finals for The Incredible Dog Challenge; we have more than 16 dog parks and dog swims (during late summer/early fall); we have 3 pet food pantries and many, many no-kill rescue organizations. I'm sure there are more qualifiers, but I can't think of them all!
So whether or not a city is truly dog friendly depends upon which dog owner you are speaking to. For me it needs to be big; WE LOVE DOGS sort of place to impress me as dog friendly. That and seeing lots of happy humans with their happy dogs.