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The Most (and Least) Pet-Friendly States in America

Written by | Updated August 3, 2020

Do you live in a state that values your furry friend as much as you do? If you’re looking for a more compassionate place to call home for you and your pet, we’ve highlighted some of the most (and least) pet-friendly states to help.

The most and least pet-friendly states in America map 2020

How we ranked the pet-friendly states

When it comes to pet-friendly states, we wanted to point out places where you and your pet will find a strong community with proper measures to protect animals.

We ranked states on the following:

  • Percentage of pet-friendly apartments (30%)1
  • Pet population (20%)2
  • Pets-left-in-car laws (10%)3
  • Veterinary reporting requirement laws (10%)4
  • Tether laws (10%)5
  • Anti-cruelty laws (15%)6,7
  • Animal fighting paraphernalia laws (5%)8

Note: We omitted Alaska and Hawaii because not all data points were available. See our animal ranking-factor or law overview sections for more information.

 

We looked for places with a lot of pet-friendly apartments and high pet populations. It’s one thing to live in a place that allows you to have a pet and another to find friends with pets. 

And with more pet owners around, you’re more likely to come across parks, trails, or restaurants that allow dogs or other pets.

To make sure your pet (along with everyone else’s) is protected, we also considered laws that demonstrate compassion toward animals. Pet owners can feel a lot better knowing the rest of the community cares about animals.

We’ll also share some considerations that didn’t go into our weighing requirements but are still good things to know as a proud pet parent.

The 10 most pet-friendly states

Washington wins for being the most pet-friendly state, with over half of the apartment selection being pet-friendly (55%) as well as a high pet population of 63%.

Washington also protects its pets with laws against people leaving pets in cars, tethering, cruelty, and possession of animal fighting paraphernalia.

StateScoreRank
Washington81.71
Illinois69.42
Pennsylvania68.53
Oregon68.54
Florida685
California66.36
Vermont65.37
Indiana65.18
Tennessee64.19
Maine62.310

The West Coast might be the best coast to raise a critter, since Washington, Oregon, and California all rank in the top 10. From sandy beaches to city streets to mountainous forests, you and your sidekick have plenty to explore.

But the Eastern side of the US has plenty of the most pet-friendly places, including Pennsylvania, Florida, Vermont, Indiana, Tennessee, and Maine. All of which have high pet populations along with laws in place to protect animals.

The 10 least pet-friendly states

Are you a pet owner in one of the following states? It’s either time to move to a sweeter spot for your little buddy or advocate for the changes necessary to make every pet feel more at home.

StateScoreRank
New Mexico16.148
South Carolina26.547
Wyoming27.546
Montana27.845
New Jersey27.944
Iowa31.743
Kentucky33.242
Georgia33.941
New Hampshire35.740
Connecticut36.039

The pet population of these states ranges from 47% (New Jersey) to 72% (Wyoming). However, the percentage of pet-friendly rentals is comparatively low, ranging from 6% (Connecticut and Wyoming) to 27% (Georgia). That means there are a lot of pets with potential for winding up in an animal shelter. 

And all except Georgia lacked veterinary reporting laws. All except Connecticut lacked tether laws. We’re hoping these states can get more pet-friendly rentals and better laws for protecting pets.

Pet-friendly state ranking factors

Using the furry-friendly factors below, we normalized each measurement on a 0-1 scale, with 1 being positive (more pet-friendly rentals, higher pet populations, and stricter laws), and zero being negative. We added together these factors using different weights (percentages) to get a score of 100.

 

Pet-friendly rentals (30% of score)

Up to a half-million (72%) of pets in the US are given to shelters because their renter parents cannot house them. Despite the “pet-friendly” label on 78% of rentals, many rentals usually include weight limits and breed restrictions that effectively reduce which apartments will accept your animals.9

States with the most pet-friendly apartments map

Florida’s your best bet for a pet-friendly apartment, with 57% of apartments allowing animals of some variety, followed by Washington at 55%. If your state has a lower percentage of pet-friendly rentals, you can still find a place to live with your pet. But makes sure to factor in more time finding a spot and money for associated costs.

Dogs are still America’s best friend

Roughly 38% of households own a dog, compared to 25% that own cats and almost 3% that own birds.10 With renters, that number goes down for each: according to Zillow, 31% of renters live with dogs, and 22% live with cats.11

Pet population (20% of score)

So who in the top 10 has the highest pet population? Vermont wins with a whopping 70% pet-owning population. When you look at all the states, Wyoming has the highest percentage (72%) but doesn’t hit the top 10 most pet-friendly states (due to its lack of pet protection laws).

Having a high pet population usually means your neighbors and local businesses are more welcoming, and likely to have more provisions available. (Who isn’t grateful for spare doggy bags along a trail?). According to a recent APPA National Pet-Owners Survey, 67% of US households own a pet, which equates to 84.9 million homes.12

Animal laws overview

Animals-left-in-car laws (10% of score)

Car confinement is dangerous because of the heat and the lack of ventilation, food, and water. At least 31 states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal confined in a vehicle under dangerous conditions or protect people who rescue distressed animals from vehicles.

 

Veterinary reporting requirement law (10% of score)

If a pet comes into a vet’s office with signs of abuse, does your state require the vet to do anything? Some states have laws that require veterinary professionals to report cruelty. 

Other states consider it a professional responsibility, using disciplinary action or revocation of licenses for failure to report abuse.

Pennsylvania stands out for requiring reporting of cruelty by other veterinarians, whereas other reporting centers only require reporting for vet and patient relationships (20 states require reporting in some form). But 14 states have no laws that require reporting by veterinary professionals.

The rest of the states have voluntary or permissive reporting, which allows a vet to break their client confidentiality to report abuse.

 

Tether laws (10% of score)

Your furry friends want to be free, so it’s good to see that 22 states and the District of Columbia have laws on dog tethering/chaining. 

While the laws themselves vary from state to state, the idea is that a person cannot tether a dog to a stationary object for unreasonably long periods, in harsh weather, or with cruel collars.

 

Anti-cruelty laws (15% of score) 

Animal cruelty by owners is a sad truth that we can’t always prevent, but 29 states don’t take those offenses lightly and impose “possession bans” that restrict future ownership or possession of animals by those convicted of animal cruelty.

Anti-cruelty laws also include laws regarding sexual assault of animals, which vary widely, and often with vague or weak restrictions. Four states still don’t have laws prohibiting the sexual assault of animals: Wyoming, Hawaii, New Mexico, and West Virginia.

 

Animal fighting paraphernalia law (5% of score)

Any equipment used in animal fighting can be considered illegal in half of all states and the US Virgin Islands.

Some equipment is more obvious like blades for attaching to roosters legs or breaking sticks for prying dogs’ jaws open, but animal fighting training devices like hot walkers and treadmills may also fall under animal fighting paraphernalia laws.

Other considerations for a pet-friendly place

Aside from our ranking criteria, you may want to look at your current or future state’s stances on other animal rights issues. If there’s something you want to change about your state’s laws, contact your local legislators to demand justice for our animal counterparts.

 

Puppy mills

Every year in America, it’s estimated that 2.4 million puppy-mill-born puppies are sold. Meanwhile, 1.5 million dogs are euthanized in shelters each year because shelters are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes.13

From 2018 through 2020, Missouri had over 20 reported mills, and in 2020 it had 30. It was the only state in the double digits this year, followed by Ohio with 9 mills. In 2020, 21 states had at least one puppy mill.14 Yikes.

states with the most puppy mills map

Even though we included Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in the highest ranking pet-friendly states for our ranking criteria, they still need to address the high numbers of puppy mills seen in their states the past three years.

For more information, visit The Humane Society’s report on national puppy mills.

 

No-kill animal shelters

Supporting your local no-kill shelter is a great way you can help the pet population as a whole. No-kill animal shelters ensure that they save at least 90% of the animals coming in, and in 2019, Delaware became the first official “no-kill state.”

Shelter animal save rate infographic

Although it’s tempting to get a puppy from a breeder, adopting a pet means saving a life. In estimations from the Best Friends Animal Society, 4.2 million pets were saved, while 625,000 were killed.15

How has COVID-19 impacted animal adoption?

In some cities, adoptions have increased by as much as 90%.16 Between stay-at-home orders and social distancing, many folks rescued a new roommate or spent more time with their pets, leading positive results for adoption.

According to a recent study by Shelter Animals Count, there were 250,000 fewer intakes in 2020 from January to May than in the same period of 2019. On top of the far lower intake of animals, shelters still saved 712,257 animals. And the number of “other outcomes” (euthanasia, death, or loss) was down by 47,340.17

How else can I keep my pet safe?

While having plenty of pet friends, places to live, and protections are all great, being a pet parent entails a lot of responsibility. We’ve compiled a list of resources to help you keep you and your pet safe:

Complete rankings: the most pet-friendly states

StateRank
Washington1
Illinois2
Pennsylvania3
Oregon4
Florida5
California6
Vermont7
Indiana8
Tennessee9
Maine10
New York11
Kansas12
West Virginia13
Colorado14
Maryland15
North Carolina16
Massachusetts17
Louisiana18
Wisconsin19
Virginia20
North Dakota21
Nevada22
Nebraska23
Missouri24
Rhode Island25
Minnesota26
Arizona27
Texas28
Delaware29
Ohio30
Alabama31
Mississippi32
Oklahoma33
Michigan34
Utah35
Idaho36
Arkansas37
South Dakota38
Connecticut39
New Hampshire40
Georgia41
Kentucky42
Iowa43
New Jersey44
Montana45
Wyoming46
South Carolina47
New Mexico48

Sources:

  1. Zillow.com, Accessed May 12, 2020.
  2. American Veterinary Medical Association, “US Pet Ownership Statistics,” Published 2018. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  3. Michigan State University Animal Law Legal Center, “Table of State Laws That Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles,” 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  4. Michigan State University Animal Law Legal Center, “Table of Veterinary Reporting Requirement and Immunity Laws,” 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  5. Michigan State University Animal Law Legal Center, “Table of State Dog Tether Laws,” 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  6. Michigan State University Animal Law Legal Center, “Anti-cruelty Laws That Restrain Future Ownership of Animals,” 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  7. Animal Legal Defense Fund, “Laws against the Sexual Assault of Animals,” 2019. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  8. Animal Legal Defense Fund, “Laws against Animal Fighting Paraphernalia,” 2019. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  9. Veterinary Economics Division, American Veterinary Medical Association, “AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook,” October 2018. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  10. American Veterinary Medical Association, “US Pet Ownership Statistics,” 2018. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  11. Zillow.com, “Renter Overview: Key Facts & Figures,” 2019. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  12. AmericanPetProducts.org, “Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics,” 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  13. The Humane Society of the United States, “Puppy Mills: Facts and Figures,” January 20, 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  14. The Humane Society of the United States, “The Horrible Hundred 2020,” May 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  15. Best Friends, “No-Kill for Shelter & Rescued Dogs & Cats,” Accessed May 12, 2020.
  16. Emma Grey Ellis, Wired, “Thanks to Sheltering in Place, Animal Shelters Are Empty,” March 10, 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
  17. Shelter Animals Count, “COVID-19 Impact Dashboard,” Accessed May 12, 2020.

Written by Trevor Wheelwright

Trevor's written professionally for five years for editorial publications and retail/e-commerce sites. He lives in Salt Lake City and enjoys photography and making music in his spare time, or you can catch him on your local dance floor bustin' a move. Learn more

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  • http://charmedinspiration.biz Kathy Nicholls

    While I see where you got your information, I would sure encourage you to dig a little deeper into the No Kill Shelters and what’s happening. We have had two in Colorado now come up with charges for multiple PACFA violations. You might better look into the concept of Socially Conscious Sheltering. No Kill shelters tend to focus on their “save rate” as a measure of success. Sadly that means animals are often warehoused, and end up dying in the shelter alone. It also means, at least it has in Colorado recently, that dangerous animals are released back into the community only to re-offend, often with no warning to the families adopting these pets. It hasn’t been the success in Colorado that the No Kill Movement would like everyone to think it has.

  • Joel E McFadden

    My Wife and I run a large rescue in NJ….TX has so many kill shelters and puts down so many dogs that even pulling thousands a month wont put a dent in the killings. Yet you claim the are a pet friendly State. I suggest your stastics are totaly flawed and your writing trivial.

  • Joel E McFadden

    This is what happens when you hire free lance writers who just google info.

  • Lauren Early

    Colorado cannot be listed as pet friendly if they have a breed ban in place! Pit bully type dogs have been illegal in the city and county of Denver for over 25 years, not to mention numerous other municipalities in the state. That’s the opposite of pet friendly!
    Also, judging a state by how many “no kill” shelters they have is ridiculous. That doesn’t mean they are pet friendly. That could mean many things.

  • Minority

    I agree with Oregon, but CA is one of the worst states for active dog families.

  • Linda Buchanan

    I don’t know what this person is writing about. I live in California and they are not very dog friendly. I recently traveled through Arizona, Utah and Wyoming and was overwhelmed by their kind welcoming of my dog!

  • Lorraine Antonia Mereya Corso

    North Carolina is no friend to any animal. They are backwards and cruel which one of the reasons we are in this pandemic now.