Americans love their pets. Like, a lot. A whopping 90.5 million families own a pet (70 percent of the population). And during the pandemic, the love for our furry friends only intensified. More than 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic—close to one in five families.
And while some of these new pet owners are figuring out how to own an animal in “real life" (a.k.a. non-lockdown), it's safe to say that pet ownership in America is still going strong.
Pet lovers are all across the country from coast to coast, and everywhere in between. But what makes a city better than the rest when it comes to pet ownership? Think facilities, services and healthcare. Specifically, we looked at vets, animal hospitals, shelters, washing and grooming services, training, boarding and parks per capita and on a square-mile scale.
The results? Florida makes the strongest showing in our top 10, but the entire South dominates. There are just three non-Southern cities in our top 10, and nary a mention of the West. Did your city make the cut? Read on to find out.
There is something in the water in Florida. No fewer than half of our top 10 cities for pet lovers are found in The Sunshine State. This central Florida city is between Gainesville and Orlando. With ideal weather, a low cost of living and plenty of small charm town, Ocala has plenty to offer pet lovers.
Living in Ocala gives you access to an impressive 60 vets and animal hospitals, not to mention lots of gorgeous pet-friendly parks. From strolling through downtown's historic square to trekking through Ocala National Forest, your pooch—or cat—is welcome. And with the low cost of living, you can put more of your monthly budget toward spoiling your best friend.
Known around the world as the birthplace of aviation, Dayton delivers when it comes to all of the outdoor places your pet loves to play. The city features 16,000 acres of parkland and five waterways — Stillwater River, Mad River, Great Miami River, Wolf Creek and Twin Creek. So, yeah, it's probably time to invest in a pet life jacket.
Is your pet more of the city type? They'll love downtown's RiverScape MetroPark along the Miami River, which includes a performance pavilion, Riverwalk, a festival plaza, an ice rink — and plenty of hiking and biking trails along the waterfront. The majority of Dayton's city parks are pet-friendly, including several urban trails downtown.
Better yet, the cost of living in Dayton is below the national average, so you can go ahead and splurge for that “fresh" pet food that sits in the fridge next to your “people food."
Everyone loves this charming Southern city for its barbecue, arts scene and access to picturesque outdoor amenities. Surrounded by wilderness areas and nature preserves, The Blue Ridge Mountains flank Greenville and it's chock full of waterfalls, rivers and lakes. Pets love the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a popular 18.6-mile trail system along an old railway line that goes through downtown Greenville.
Speaking of downtown, you can't beat Falls Park on the Reedy River. Beyond the picturesque green spaces and gardens of this 36-acre oasis, you'll find historic mill ruins, all of which your four-legged friend are welcome to explore. If you're planning to relocate to Greenville, there's no time like the present. The secret is out about South Carolina. In 2021, South Carolina was the third most popular moving destination in the country and the trend shows no sign of slowing.
Located on the Gulf Coast between Tampa Bay and Sarasota, Bradenton is on the Manatee River. Not only do you and your fur babies have easy access to miles of sandy coastline, but there's also the 1.5-mile Riverwalk for waterside dog walking. And don't miss the colorful Village of the Arts, where you and your pup can stroll by galleries, studios and shops housed in vibrant cottages that date back to the 1920s and '30s.
Judging by the data we crunched, pets in Bradenton are both healthy and well-coiffed, with 40 vets and pet hospitals and 23 grooming facilities in the area. Don't mind a little humidity? Perhaps it's time to acclimate your four-legged buddy to that sweet salty air.
This East Coast city offers an easy mix of urban/suburban living that a whole lot of pet lovers prefer. From culture and gorgeous gardens to craft breweries and ample outdoor activities, there's a lot to love about living in Wilmington.
Got a pup that likes to stretch his legs? Be sure to check out the Delaware Outdoor Trail for the best trails, water activities and much more. Does your buddy go bananas for car rides? Take her on a picturesque ride along the Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway. However you decide to spend your Mid-Atlantic days, rest assured your pal will be well taken care of with ample pet amenities including a plethora of vets and no fewer than 18 parks.
Home of Alton Brown (“Good Eats") and his Boston Terrier, Scabigail, and long-time stomping ground of Ty Pennington (“Extreme Home Makeover") and his rescue dog, Marietta has been home to plenty of high profile personalities — and their pups. So if you're considering a move to Atlanta and its environs, you'll be in good company.
Calling all salty dogs — and their owners! If you live for seafood, sandy beaches and salty air, you could do a lot worse than the perma-vacation lifestyle this Gulf Coast gem provides. But living in Pensacola isn't just about beach days at pet-friendly stretches of sand like Bayview and Pensacola Dog Beach. This popular vacation destination is also a cultural melting pot, with Spanish, French and Native American influences, among others.
If you can get past the influx of tourists and those sweltering summer temps, Pensacola will reward you and your fur baby with tons of parks, groomers and vets. Oh, and also? There's no income tax in the state of Florida. Perhaps that's why the Sunshine State all but swept our top 10.
OK, we see you, Florida. There's a good reason why many consider Miami Florida's crown jewel. But beyond all that high-profile glitz, glam and South Beach eye candy, this is a bonafide (pun intended) pet lover's paradise. Why else would Mars Petcare certify Miami as a “Better City For Pets"? This is a high mark for pet-friendliness from an organization that works with local governments, businesses and non-profits to help communities be the best for pets.
People in these parts simply love their pets, which is probably why they live in Miami. How else would a whopping 152 vets/animal hospitals stay in business? Not to mention, 90 grooming facilities. This is Miami, after all, where even your pets need to look their best. Add to that 157 parks for your pups to play in, and it's clear that this No. 3 spot has the substance to back the high ranking up.
Surrounded by Florida locales in a top 10 that's dominated by Southern cities, Lancaster may just be the dark horse in our No. 2 spot. Living in Lancaster gives you access to endless horizons of rolling farmland and the largest Amish population in the U.S. However, there are also some more consumer-based claims to fame, namely as the home of Hershey's Chocolate. Just don't take your pets to sample the sweet treats — as you well know, chocolate is possibly toxic to dogs.
Beyond the Amish culture and pastoral landscapes, Lancaster boasts a rich history and an impressive arts scene. From picturesque trails to Amish buggy rides and ample dog parks, your pups will find plenty to fill their days in Lancaster.
Among the five Florida cities that dominate our top 10, Sarasota takes the crown. Located an hour south of Tampa Bay, this Gulf Coast city is chock full of pristine beaches, artistic enclaves and plenty of everything for your beloved pets — including 74 vets/pet hospitals and 36 groomers.
While Brohard Paw Park near Venice Beach is Sarasota's only dog-friendly beach, nobody's going to stop you from taking your favorite skipper on a sailing trip to one of the many nearby Keys. You'll also find ample parks and preserves where those with paws love to play and explore. Your pet will be welcome at many local restaurants, and did we mention Bayside Pet Resort? Put your pup up in luxury 5-star digs that come complete with a pet spa. We'd expect nothing less in the country's best city for pets.
Cities were ranked based on five categories relevant to pet ownership: health services, shelters, other services and grooming, training and boarding, and outdoor amenities. Each category was given an equal weight consisting of 20 percent of the total score. Each factor within the categories was scored on a per capita and per square mile Basis. The scores for each were summed to reach the total score for each factor. Each total factor within each category was also combined to reach a total score for the category. The total weighted score is the sum of all scores for each category.