We go to great lengths to keep our furry friends happy, but can the state you live in change your pet’s quality of life?
To find out, we looked to sources like BringFido, Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and nOkill Network for a bird’s eye view at the number of anti-abuse laws, veterinarians, and no-kill shelters in each state. Pet-friendly restaurants, hotels, and activities were also factors in our ranking. From what we found, these states are the cat’s meow. See if your state made the list of top 10 pet paradises.
10. New Hampshire
New Hampshire is full of hiking trails and pet-friendly destinations. Across the state, we found hundreds of vacation rentals and restaurants that welcome pets. The Granite State is a great place for outdoorsy dogs, too, with over 50 hiking trails open to animals. Plus, it’s a friendly place for all breeds. Beyond wolf-hybrids, New Hampshire has no breed restrictions.1 This means regulated breeds like pit bulls are easier for renters to own or take out in public.
From longhorns to Labradoodles, Texans love animals. Wild and domestic animals have strict laws protecting them across the state. Many other states only consider cruelty a misdemeanor punishable with a small fine. But according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the maximum penalty for animal cruelty in Texas is up to 20 years imprisonment with a $10,000 fine. Texas also has thousands of pet-friendly restaurants, hotels, and hiking trails to enjoy with your pets.
8. Rhode Island
Rhode Island is small, but the locals are big fans of animals. From an adventure on a coastal yacht cruise to a hike on one of the 14 pet-friendly trails across the state—there’s plenty to do in “Little Rhody”. Many states have a limited legal definition of “animal” that leaves a lot of critters unprotected by the law. Rhode Island’s broad definition includes service animals, livestock, and wildlife. Another law on the books, according to the ALDF, prevents cities from restricting dog and cat breeds, so everyone is welcome.
From Norfolk to Blacksburg, Virginia is full of pet-friendly places. You can stroll along the shore or take one of the dozens of pet-friendly trails in the mountains. Old Dominion also takes animal rights seriously. Virginia is home to over 60 no-kill shelters and more than 2,000 veterinarians.2 And it isn’t just horse country, Virginia is a great state for pets, wildlife, and other livestock too.
In Louisiana, the “hair of the dog” isn’t just a hangover cure. BringFido.com reported 700 pet-friendly restaurants across the state for you and your party animals to enjoy. Louisiana is a melting pot of culture, making it great for locals and newcomers alike. In addition, The Pelican State has 50 no-kill shelters and ranks higher than 43 states for anti-cruelty laws according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Washington takes pet-friendliness to Olympic proportions—hundreds of dog parks, hiking trails and pet-friendly beaches that’ll get you and your pets outside and in nature. After your hike, you can go to any of the thousands of welcoming restaurants for a pick-me-up. But beautiful scenery and new smells aren’t all Washington has to offer. You can also adopt new four-legged friends from any of the 60 no-kill shelters across the state.
California has the most veterinarians in the country. The Gold Coast is also home to over 500 dog parks, 81 dog-friendly beaches, and a handful of stunning national parks and monuments. California law is also highly protective of abused animals. The ALDF reports that Californians convicted of animal abuse can’t own animals for 5 to 10 years after the offense.
Unless you’re a lobster, Maine is a great place to be an animal. “Vacationland” is home to thousands of pet-friendly locations like hotels, restaurants, dog parks, beaches, and hiking trails. This makes Maine an ideal doggy destination. It’s great for local animals too. Maine is home to 26 no-kill shelters, 460 veterinarians, and the third-best animal protection laws in the nation according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.3
Colorado is a pet paradise with miles of scenic hiking trails. The Centennial State is home to 74 no-kill shelters and 2,150 veterinarians too. Colorado also has some of the nation’s best animal protection laws. For example, domestic abuse can include crimes against a victim’s animal, and veterinarians are required to report suspected cruelty. Top it off with Colorado’s stunning national parks and your mutt may never want to leave the mountains.
Oregon has it all—thousands of pet-friendly properties to visit, strict anti-abuse laws, and lots of no-kill shelters where you can meet new friends. Portland alone has over 350 pet-friendly restaurants. If you find yourself on the coast, Cannon Beach is great for a seaside stroll with your pooch. Animal law in Oregon is more advanced than the rest of the country too—animal fighting is a felony and charges increase with cases involving multiple animals. These and other laws have placed Oregon at the top of our list and #2 nationally according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.4
The 10 Least Pet-Friendly States
Unlike our top 10, these states aren’t always on the side of our furry friends. Whether it’s a lack of pet-friendly establishments or lax protection laws, these are the 10 least pet-friendly states.
Our Pet-Friendly Findings
California has the most veterinarians in the country (7,380), but Montana tips the scale per capita with 390, or 0.845 vets per every 1,000 jobs.
Strictest Protection Laws
Illinois didn’t make this year’s list on SafeWise, but it’s ranked as #1 on the ALDF’s ranking of animal protection laws in the country. For example, the Land of Lincoln considers offenses like leaving an animal in a hot car at least a Class C misdemeanor. Offenders face harsher charges for more violent crimes as well. Runners-up include Oregon, Maine, Colorado, and Massachusetts.
Most Puppy Mills
Puppy mills are a real problem in states like Missouri (23), Ohio (13), Iowa (10), and Pennsylvania (9). The Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred” report documents graphic abuse found in mills across these states. If you decide to add a new pet to your home this year, we encourage you to adopt from a reputable no-kill shelter.
Summer Safety Tips
Keep food and water out
Whether you’re hiking or just hanging out, your pets need plenty of water and food during the summer season. Just be sure to wash out their bowls often to avoid contamination. And during the hottest days, turn on the sprinkler system for your pups to play in.
Remember the first aid kit
If you take your hounds on a hike, be sure to prepare for anything. Even if your dog is just a goofy klutz, it’s wise to at least have bandages and ointment. If something happens, these supplies can help until you get them to the vet.
Avoid outdoor parasites
Hikes are full of exciting new sights and smells, but don’t let your dog into tall grass or dense forests. These areas can be full of creepy crawlies that could cause serious damage to your pet’s health. Ticks, for example, carry Lyme disease and other health hazards. Talk to your veterinarian to learn more about parasite prevention.
Be sensitive to your pet’s limits
Your pet is your best friend, so help them avoid anything that makes them uncomfortable or anxious. It can be tempting during the summer months to take your aging dog on long walks or to fireworks displays. But if they have weak joints or are afraid of loud noises, it’s better to keep them company at home.
Avoid toxic plants and garden products
Garden products like fertilizers can be highly toxic to cats and dogs. Before purchasing anything for your garden, do a little research (or just read the label). If an emergency happens, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. These trained professionals are available around the clock and every day of the year to help in a crisis.
Protect their paws
When you wear shoes, it’s easy to forget how hot the pavement or sidewalk can get on a summer day. But if you take your dog on a midday walk, the hot concrete can damage their paws quickly. Instead, save the walks for mornings or late evenings when the sidewalks are cool enough for their bare paws.
Keep them cool
Sweaty summer afternoons can take a toll on your dogs or cats, especially if they have thick fur. If you keep your pets outside while you’re away in summer, be sure they have access to shade, fresh water, and food. Dogs like Huskies aren’t designed for 98-degree weather. So leave thick-coated critters with a plastic kiddie pool or a cooling vest like the Ruffwear Jet Stream.
Keep an eye on them
Unfortunately, we can’t always be home with our pets. Luckily, pet cameras will let you watch your four-legged friends remotely from your phone or mobile device. Pet cams are subtle and easy to set up, but the best ones have cool features like a treat shooter so you can send your pet a snack.
To find the most pet-friendly states, we took a close look at the factors that affect our pets. For information on anti-cruelty laws, breed restrictions, and other legal insight, we used the 2018 U.S. Animal Protection Laws State Ranking from The Animal Legal Defense Fund. This is an annual report that ranks each state according to the animal-friendly laws in the books. BringFido was another helpful resource for our research. Specializing in “pet travel and lifestyle,” BringFido is a must-have tool for jet-setting pets and their owners. You can find tons of pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, parks, and more.
While your pets may not be a fan, veterinarians are essential to making a state pet-friendly. We consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find out which states are the friendliest for pets and vets. Finally, we checked with the nOkill Network to learn more about no-kill shelters across the country. These shelters have a limited amount of animals but keep them safe and happy until they can find a forever home. We ranked states with more no-kill shelters higher than others, and states with more puppy mills and breeders ranked lower.
Katie McEntire has tested home security systems in her own apartment, installed GPS trackers in her own car, and watched her cat, Toki, nap all day through a live nanny cam feed. As an expert reviewer, she believes that firsthand experience is the best way to learn about new products (even if it requires being the guinea pig). She specializes in pet safety and DIY security and has contributed to publications like DigitalCare.org and TechGuySmartBuy. Learn more