The lighter side of real estate

The 10 Best Cities for Pet Lovers

We have a treat for you. What city is the best for pets? Movoto found the 10 best cities for your favorite furry friend.

David Cross

Content Editor

232 articles, 24 comments

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Recently, some of the Movoto Real Estate bloggers have been considering purchasing a pet. Specifically, some of us are interested in buying a cat or dog. Our problem is that we live in the San Francisco area, and our apartments are tiny–think Hobbit-sized. And while we are pretty sure we could house a pet, we aren’t sure about having to give up our scant living space.

Nonetheless, our to-get-or-not-to-get debate started us thinking about what a city needs to be a “pet city.” In fact, we got so caught up with the idea that we decided to build a set of criteria and rank 30 of the country’s most populous cities.

What did we find? If you want to live in a pet-friendly environment, you should skip New York City, and all the other major metros.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 cities to own a pet:

  1. Dallas, TX
  2. Charlotte, NC
  3. Milwaukee, WI
  4. Louisville, KY
  5. Phoenix, AZ
  6. Austin, TX
  7. San Diego, CA
  8. Oklahoma City, OK
  9. El Paso, TX
  10. Jacksonville, FL

If you want to know how we created our analysis, continue on. Or, if you want to see our full list by rank, you can go here. Either way, your pets will thank you.

Population and Household

Figuring out the number of pets in a city isn’t easy. It’s like walking your dog and forgetting plastic bags for your furry friend’s business. We’re exaggerating, of course, but it wasn’t easy. To even start our project, we needed to know the population of pets in each city.

We started by finding the estimated population of each city and then divided that by 2.59–the average number of people in a household. This gave us an idea for the number of households in each cosmo.

Why did we do that? The helpful people at the American Pet Products Association states that 62 percent of households have pets. Knowing the number of households in a city let us make an educated guess at the number of pets in each city.

Just to be clear, here’s an example:

There are an estimated 3,819,702 people living in Los Angeles, or with our analysis, 1,474,788 households. Using APPA’s 62 percent figure, we were able to estimate that there are 914,369 pets in the City of Angels—nearly all of which are probably little yappy dogs in purses. (C’mon, you know it’s true!)

With an idea of the number of pets in each city, we were able to create a metric that told us where your pets want to be.

Parks, Stores, Vets

We measured three criteria to learn which city is best for Fido. They were:

  • Park Space
  • Pet Services
  • Number of Veterinarians

Once we had these numbers, we calculated the percentage of each criteria per pet and then created an average score.

Parks and Bark Space

Parks matter. If you live in a large city, having open space to let your pet play is important. This is why we included each city’s park acreage as one of our criteria.

Where did we find each city’s park acreage? We used ParkScore, a tool the Movoto bloggers highly recommend for those home buyers who make public space a priority. ParkScore offers a comprehensive rating system of the country’s 40 largest parks (San Francisco is #1). Along with the ranking, the not-for-profit provides details about each of the cities’ parks such as their number of acreage.

Places to Pamper Your Pets

Whether you need a hamster wheel or an interior designer for cats (they do too exist!), a good pet city needs lots of places that cater to your furry balls needs.

Our original thought was to use the 2007 U.S. Economic Census. However, not only is that data five years old, it didn’t adequately show the number of pet services in a city. We worked around this by using everyone’s favorite reviewing source—Yelp.

For each of our 30 cities, we counted the number of pet services, which included multiple businesses such as pet grooming and dog walkers. In addition, we excluded veterinarians because we calculated that data separately.

Obviously there are some problems with using Yelp. Not all pet services are on the website, but it does give a strong idea for the number of pet businesses in each city.

Call a Veterinarian

You want your pets to be healthy. So do we. This is why we included the number of vets in an area.

Unfortunately, the information on veterinarians we found was somewhat troublesome. The Census Bureau tracks various employment statistics for metropolitan areas–not just cities. We went ahead and used this data anyway.

Where’s Your Pet Sanctuary?

So what’s the takeaway? If you treat your pets like your children (we all have friends who do), moving to New York City or Los Angeles might not be in their best interest. For a perky pet, head over to Jacksonville, where your little guy will be even more pampered than he or she is now.

The Top 30 Cities for Pets

  1. Jacksonville, FL
  2. El Paso, TX
  3. Oklahoma City, OK
  4. San Diego, CA
  5. Austin, TX
  6. Phoenix, AZ
  7. Louisville, KY
  8. Milwaukee, WI
  9. Charlotte, NC
  10. Dallas, TX
  11. Portland, OR
  12. Houston, TX
  13. Nashville, TN
  14. San Antonio, TX
  15. San Jose, CA
  16. Fort Worth, TX
  17. Columbus, OH
  18. Memphis, TN
  19. Indianapolis, IN
  20. Washington, DC
  21. Denver, CO
  22. Seattle, WA
  23. Boston, MA
  24. Detroit, MI
  25. Baltimore, MD
  26. San Francisco, CA
  27. Philadelphia, PA
  28. Los Angeles, CA
  29. Chicago, IL
  30. New York City, NY

The Movoto blog is a service of Movoto Real Estate. If you’re looking for a new home, keep us in mind. We have up-to-date real estate listings and local agents throughout the country. When you want to take a break from browsing homes, you can keep coming back to read awesome blog posts like this one.

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posted on: February 19, 2013
2,425 views, 8 comments


  1. Natalie

    Nice. As a current Austinite, I have to say, it is a very dog-friendly city. I’m talking dogs in bookstores, restaurants, bars, businesses, lawyers’ offices… I even went to an improv show the other night in which a dog was the main character. I don’t think he knew this, but still. We love our dogs here.
    Thanks for the post!

  2. Nick

    I’d like to add that Louisville is very dog friendly and many bars let you bring them into the patio area. San Diego has an awesome dog beach.

  3. Megan

    Greenville, SC didn’t make the list but its downtown is very dog friendly (at least when I used to live there 2 yrs ago). They have some pretty cool dog specialty shops and there’s a nice park nearby as well.

  4. Jess

    Terrible list.

    • Ginny in response to Jess

      I agree…the best place for pets is Denver CO…no fleas…and 300 days of sunshine on average…how does that rate 21 on the list?

  5. Jennie

    Living an hour from Jax I volunteer helping their homeless pet population and really enjoy working with their Animal Control system. That being said I hope the bloggers will consider adopting a homeless animal rather than buying a dog or a cat. Many beautiful “bought” animals end up dumped in shelters and rescues through no fault of their own. Saving a life (not buying one) is the way to go! :)

  6. Johari

    Glad to see Jacksonville is on the map for something good for once.

  7. Steven

    Your methodology for determining the number of households in a given metro has one huge flaw: it assumes an average of 2.59 persons/household without weighting for housing cost! It would seem fairly obvious that there might be more persons/household in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco than Milwaukee or Indianapolis -young adults living at home longer while they start thier careers, people having roommates, etc.- due to the cost of either renting or buying in those California markets..and as a real estate brokerage, you of all people should have thought of this! Still, I know a list like this is more for fun than any real hard decision-making, and I appreciate Milwaukee being #8; my cats Brian and Stewie seem to like it here…


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