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

In the US, there are over 50,000 pet-friendly rentals and more than 71 million households with pets.1,2 But where can you live that puts the safety of pets at the forefront?

To help folks looking to find a place to call home for themselves alongside their furry friends, we’ve highlighted the most (and least) pet-friendly states. We ranked according to pet population, rentals that allow pets, and laws that protect pets and prevent abuse.

Bar chart showing the most and least pet-friendly states in 2022

To see our full state rankings, jump below.

How we ranked the pet-friendly states

We based half of our ranking on how easy it is for you and your pet to find a place to live alongside other pet-owning neighbors. In the other half of our weights, we considered which states had laws demonstrating compassion for pets and acting against animal abuse.

We ranked states on the following:

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

See our full methodology for more information and insight on these ranking factors.

We’ll also go over other considerations like travel, shelters, and pandemic concerns that didn’t impact our ranking requirements but may be helpful for all the pet parents out there.

Whether you’re looking for ways to perk up your local pet community, or you’re finding a new home for you or your furry friends, let’s look at the most pet-friendly states in America.

The 10 most pet-friendly states

Where’s the most dog-friendly place to live? Indiana ranks as the most pet-friendly state with a high pet population of 69.2%. Plus, nearly half (44.0%) of its apartments are pet-friendly. Indiana also has almost all of our “must-have” pet laws in place (aside from veterinary reporting requirements, which half of all the states lack too).

You’re also likely to find a fine place for you and your furry friends in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nevada, and Vermont, which all have plenty of pets among the population, a fair amount of pet-friendly rentals, and protective pet laws.

The 10 most pet-friendly states in America in 2022

Rank
State
Score
1Indiana80.23
2Tennessee75.99
3North Carolina75
4Nevada71.71
5Vermont71.69
6Oregon66.87
7Pennsylvania66.35
8Missouri63.91
9Colorado63.62
10Washington62.86
  • Each of the top 10 pet-friendly states has a pet population percentage of 59% or more. Hopefully, that makes it easier for you and your pup to find a pack to roll around with.
  • At number six overall, Oregon ranks for the highest pet population in the top 10 at 70%. Wyoming, which ranks number 43 overall, has the highest pet population percentage in the US at 71.8%.
  • Ranking at number three overall, North Carolina has the highest percentage of pet-friendly apartments in the US (56.8%), followed by Georgia (53.5%). 
  • Despite having plenty of pet-friendly apartments, Georgia ranks much lower at number 31 due to its lack of protective pet laws.
  • Pennsylvania has the lowest percentage of pet-friendly apartments in the top 10 at only 15.7%. However, Pennsylvania has a high pet population, checks off all of our “must-have” pet laws, and ends up ranking number 7 overall.

These states all have plenty of pets roaming around, a decent percentage of pet-friendly apartments, and animal safety laws that make it easier to own and protect dogs, cats, and other critters. Unfortunately, not every state makes pet ownership and animal protection a priority, as you’ll see in the lowest ranking states.

The least pet-friendly states

What makes a place the least pet-friendly place to live? A lower pet population, along with rentals that don’t allow pets, means fewer furry friends running around, and they’re less likely to be welcomed. And if animals don’t have legal protection, a state is less likely to prevent or bring justice to animal-related crimes.

Despite having a higher pet population percentage of 60.1%, New Mexico lacks all of our “must-have” pet laws, and only 15.9% of its available rentals are pet-friendly—that’s just over half the national average of 26.2%

Because of this, New Mexico may be the last place on your list of potential places to move with your pet—along with states like Montana, Connecticut, Idaho, and Iowa, which all have lower percentages of rentals and lack some of our desired pet protection laws.

The 10 least pet-friendly states in America in 2022

Rank
State
Score
48New Mexico16.12
47Montana23.4
46Connecticut29.2
45Idaho32.56
44Iowa32.75
43Wyoming34.08
42South Dakota36.06
41New Hampshire38.81
40New Jersey39.9
39Rhode Island40

If you’re a pet owner living in one of these states, it may be time to advocate for the changes necessary to make pets feel more at home.

  • The states with the lowest percentage of pet-friendly rentals were Rhode Island (7.8%), Connecticut (9.1%), and Montana (9.3%).
  • Each of the least pet-friendly states has less than 25% of pet-friendly rentals available, which isn’t too far from below the 26.2% average.
  • A total of nine states have pet population percentages of less than 50%: Rhode Island, South Dakota, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut.
  • Wyoming has the highest pet population, but only 22% of its apartments are pet-friendly. It also lacks most protective pet laws, except for anti-cruelty laws.

Our rankings don’t reflect the spirit of kind-hearted people in these states or the lengths they’re willing to go through for their furry friends, but they do indicate what sort of legal or housing problems you may face.

We’ll go over the specifics of our rankings below and then provide more insight and tips about pet safety in the US.

Pet-friendly state ranking factors

We ranked each state on the pet-friendly factors below. Alaska and Hawaii were omitted from the rankings because not all data points were available.

We normalized each measurement on a 0-1 scale, where 1 is positive for pet owners (more pet-friendly rentals, higher pet populations, and stricter animal laws) and 0 is negative. We added these measurements with different weights to get a score of 100 for ranking purposes.

We mainly considered dogs and cats, which are the most common pets.9 Other animals like reptiles, fish, birds, and more often fall into the “pet” category. However, these animals may not be treated like dogs and cats for rental requirements or protective animal laws. (You may want to double-check with your landlord about that komodo dragon first.)

Pet-friendly rentals (30% of score)

More pet-friendly rentals means more options for pet owners’ living needs and budgets. We used Zillow Rental Data to analyze each state’s percentage of pet-friendly rentals.1

Map graphic showing the percentage of pet-friendly rental properties/apartments in each state in 2022

The following states had pet-friendly rental percentages of 44% or more: 

  • North Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • Tennessee
  • Indiana

If your state has fewer pet-friendly rentals, you can still find a place to live with your pet. But you’ll want to factor in more searching time between leases, as well as extra money for associated pet costs.

Pet population (20% of score)

When pets are more common in a state, you're more likely to find pet playdates for your furry pal (and maybe even more businesses your pet is welcome inside). We used American Veterinary Medical Association data and found the average pet population percentage across America is 59.3%.2

(Note: Although this is a late 2018 report, it’s the most recent available data from the AVMA due to pandemic-related issues.)

The states with the highest pet populations neared 70% or more:

  1. Wyoming
  2. West Virginia
  3. Nebraska
  4. Vermont
  5. Idaho

Some estimates put the pet population even higher: According to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 90.5 million homes.10

Animal laws overview

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

Cars can be dangerous for pets after a while due to heat and a lack of food, water, or ventilation. Sometimes, bystanders feel compelled to break into the car to free the pet from the vehicle.

According to the Animal Legal and Historical Center, 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.3

Veterinary reporting requirement law (10% of score)

These laws require veterinarians to report signs of abuse or cruelty. Currently, only half of the states have veterinary reporting requirement laws, while other states may consider it a professional, rather than legal, responsibility.4

Pennsylvania stands out for requiring veterinarians to report animal cruelty inflicted by other veterinarians. Other reporting centers only require reporting for vet and patient relationships. (20 states require reporting in some form.) 

The  Animal Legal and Historical Center reports 14 states have no laws that require reporting by veterinary professionals. These states have voluntary or permissive reporting (meaning vets can break their patient confidentiality to report abuse).

Tether laws (10% of score)

Our furry friends don’t like being tethered up for long periods, stuck in harsh weather, or constricted to cruel collars. Currently, 22 states (and Washington, DC) have laws regarding these abusive and negligent practices.

We gathered this information from the Animal Legal and Historical Center.

Anti-cruelty laws (15% of score) 

Unfortunately, animal abuse from humans is a harsh reality that we can’t always prevent. Stricter anti-cruelty laws make it harder for abusers to own pets and potentially deter would-be abusers.

According to the Animal Legal and Historical Center, as many as 29 states impose possession bans that restrict future ownership of animals by those convicted.6

Animal-cruelty laws also include the sexual assault of animals. These laws can vary widely and often come with vague or weak restrictions. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, three states still don’t have any animal sexual assault laws: Wyoming, New Mexico, and West Virginia.7

Animal fighting paraphernalia law (5% of score)

The Animal Legal Defense Fund reports that any equipment possessed with the intent for animal fighting is considered illegal in 30 states and the US Virgin Islands.8

Some equipment is more evident, like blades that attach to roosters' legs or breaking sticks for prying dogs' jaws open. Animal fighting training devices like hot walkers and treadmills may also fall under animal fighting paraphernalia laws.

Other considerations for pet safety

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to your pet companions, so we’ve highlighted other key components to pet-friendly living. And if there's something you want to change about your state's laws, contact your local legislators and work with animal rights organizations for better pet justice.

Puppy mill laws by state

The Human Society estimates that there are 10,000 known puppy mills (and many more that are still unknown).11 On average, 500,000 dogs are kept solely for breeding purposes in all puppy mills, and 2.6 million puppy-mill-born puppies are sold every year.12

Meanwhile, 1.5 million dogs are euthanized in shelters each year because shelters are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes.

Map graphic showing the states with the best and worst puppy mill laws

The Horrible Hundred report notes that despite efforts to reduce puppy mills, Missouri still has the largest number of puppy mills for the ninth year in a row, with 21 known mills. Ohio follows with 16 mills, then Iowa (11 mills), and Nebraska and Pennsylvania (8 mills each).

Best and worst states for shelter animals

The term “no-kill” shelter isn’t always clear, but these shelters give pets evaluations and long-term care.13 As a general goal, they aim for at least a 90% threshold for adoption placement. Still, some pets may be euthanized depending on illness or behavior issues. No official organization or governing body regulates “no-kill” standards, so exact standards vary.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), national euthanasia numbers likely double the rate of the “no-kill” requirement:14

  • Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 48% are adopted, and 20% are euthanized.
  • Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 50% are adopted, and 27% are euthanized.
Data visualization graphic showing the top 5 best and worst states for shelter animals in 2022, and relationship between the percent of animals killed in shelters versus the percent of no-kill shelters in the state

Data source: BestFriends.org

The ASPCA reports that twice as many stray animals are sheltered compared to the number relinquished by their owners. (We recall Bob Barker’s advice: have your pets spayed or neutered!”)

How has the pandemic affected pet ownership?

The pandemic rippled out into the pet population in various ways, like changes in their owners’  incomes or housing statuses, which could affect ownership capabilities. But with remote work and more time at home, more people also found themselves wanting a cute companion.

Here’s how the pandemic affected pet ownership:

  • COVID-19 raised adoptions in some cities by as much as 90%.15
  • Many people who adopted animals during remote work now have to return to the office and figure out what to do with their pandemic pets.
  • According to the ASPCA, the overwhelming majority of the 23 million adopted pets during the pandemic are still in their homes.16

Luckily, the prospect of returning to the office doesn’t seem to signify the end of our critter companionship for most folks, either. But when it comes to taking care of pets, the pandemic posed other problems:

Regarding pet health and safety, we recommend consulting your veterinarian for pet-specific advice and monitoring their basic vitals. And always keep an emergency vet's phone number and location visible on your fridge.

How can I safely travel with my pet?

Check pet policies before using any public or private travel service (like flights, taxis, rideshares, buses, trains, etc.). They may have special requirements or offer specialized services to keep your pet more comfortable during the journey. We break down more specific examples in our article on safe traveling tips for pets.

You’ll want to make a list of everything your pet regularly needs, including medications or treatments, along with travel accommodations, emergency supplies, and information about nearby pet clinics.

​​Some websites like Pet Friendly Travel or Bring Fido help you find pet-friendly places to stay, parks and trails to explore, services, events, and user ratings. You can also check for nearby veterinary services to help prepare if your pet has known conditions. 

How else can I keep my pet safe?

Having plenty of pet friends, places to live, and protections are all great, but being a pet parent entails a lot of responsibility. Here are a few of the most relevant articles from our Pet Safety Archives to help you keep you and your pet safe:

Most (and least) pet-friendly states: Full rankings

Find your state in the table below to see how it ranks in this year’s analysis.

Rank
State
Score
1Indiana80.23
2Tennessee75.99
3North Carolina75.00
4Nevada71.71
5Vermont71.69
6Oregon66.87
7Pennsylvania66.35
8Missouri63.91
9Colorado63.62
10Washington62.86
11Illinois62.49
12Kansas62.23
13California61.54
14Arizona61.53
15Texas60.09
16Maine58.48
17Florida57.97
18Maryland57.67
19Alabama57.49
20Virginia57.44
21Ohio56.62
22Nebraska56.21
23West Virginia55.87
24Mississippi54.92
25Massachusetts52.79
26Wisconsin50.99
27Delaware50.93
28New York50.47
29Oklahoma50.21
30Louisiana49.55
31Georgia47.35
32North Dakota46.75
33Minnesota46.61
34Kentucky44.40
35Utah44.05
36Arkansas43.31
37Michigan42.73
38South Carolina41.09
39Rhode Island40.00
40New Jersey39.90
41New Hampshire38.81
42South Dakota36.06
43Wyoming34.08
44Iowa32.75
45Idaho32.56
46Connecticut29.20
47Montana23.40
48New Mexico16.12

Methodology

We ranked states on seven different factors to find which ones have proper measures in place to protect animals. Each measurement was normalized on a 0-1 scale with 1 corresponding to the measurement that would most positively affect the final score and 0 corresponding to the measurement that would most negatively affect the final score. These adjusted measurements were then added together with the weights mentioned below to get a score of 100.

Each state was ranked based on the factors below:

  • Pet- left-in-cars laws (10%): A more strict law positively impacts the score.3
  • Veterinary reporting requirement laws (10%): A more strict law positively impacts the score.4
  • Tether laws (10%): A more strict law positively impacts the score.5
  • Anti-cruelty and sexual assault laws (15%): More strict laws positively impacts the score.6,7
  • Animal fighting paraphernalia laws (5%): A more strict law positively impacts the score.8
  • Pet population (20%): A higher percentage of households with pets positively impacts the score.9
  • Percent of pet-friendly rentals (30%): A higher percentage of rental properties that are pet-friendly positively impacts the score.1

*Note: Alaska and Hawaii were omitted from the rankings because not all data points were available.


Sources

  1. Zillow, Accessed February 1, 2022.
  2. American 2017-2018 Edition AVMA Pet Ownership And Demographics Sourcebook October 2018. Accessed February 1, 2022.
  3. Rebecca F. Wisch, Animal Legal and Historical Center, “Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles,” 2021. Accessed February 1, 2022.
  4. Rebecca F. Wisch, Animal Legal and Historical Center, “Table of Veterinary Reporting Requirement and Immunity Laws,” 2020. Accessed February 1, 2022.
  5. Rebecca F. Wisch, Animal Legal and Historical Center, “Table of State Dog Tether Laws,” 2021. Accessed February 1, 2022.
  6. Anti-cruelty laws that restrain future ownership of animals. Anti-cruelty Laws That Restrain Future Ownership of Animals,” 2021. Accessed February 1, 2022.
  7. Animal Legal Defense Fund, “Laws against the Sexual Assault of Animals,” 2021. Accessed February 1, 2022.
  8. Animal Legal Defense Fund, “Laws against Animal Fighting Paraphernalia,” 2019. Accessed February 1, 2022.
  9. Veterinary Economics Division, American Veterinary Medical Association, “AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook,” October 2018. Accessed February 1, 2022.
  10. American Pet Productions Association, “2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey.” Accessed February 1, 2022.
  11. The Humane Society of the United States, “Horrible Hundred Report 2021,” May 2021.
  12. Mark Greenberg, The Humane Society of the United States, “Stopping Puppy Mills.” Accessed February 1, 2022.
  13. Animal Humane Society, “What Does It Mean to Be No-Kill?” Accessed February 1, 2022.
  14. ASPCA “Shelter Intake and Surrender | Animal Homelessness,” Accessed February 1, 2022.
  15. Emma Grey Ellis, Wired, “Thanks to Sheltering in Place, Animal Shelters Are Empty,” March 2020. Accessed Feb 1, 2022.
  16. ASPCA, “New ASPCA Survey Shows Overwhelming Majority of Dogs and Cats Acquired during the Pandemic Are Still in Their Homes,” May 26, 2021. Accessed Feb 1, 2022.
Trevor Wheelwright
Written by
Trevor Wheelwright
Trevor’s written about your money, your life topics for over six years. His work has been featured on Forbes, RealSimple, USA Today, MSN, BusinessInsider, Entrepreneur, PCMag, and CNN. When he’s not researching and writing, you can find him around Salt Lake City, Utah, snapping photos of mountains and architecture or seeking out some good tunes and friendly faces.

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