With more than 36% of U.S. households including a dog (according to a 2012 survey from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation), it’s no surprise that finding a pet-friendly neighborhood is an important consideration for many homebuyers. But how can you tell which neighborhoods — even in a noted dog-friendly city like Austin, TX — are truly welcoming to your four-legged friends? Here’s what to look for on the house hunt.
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- You see a lot of dogs out and aboutAn obvious sign of a pet-friendly neighborhood is one that has lots of dogs exploring with their humans. “You want to make sure that people, neighbors, landlords, and business owners are going to welcome your pet, and the best indicator of that is if there are lots of other dogs around,” says Janine Acquafredda, co-founder of Realtors 4 Rescues, a nonprofit that helps keep animals out of shelters. “And where there are lots of dogs, there are lots of dog owners that care about animals, so your dog will be in a safer and happier environment.” There’s more to this pet activity than just scoping out the canine social scene, though. A neighborhood with lots of dog activity is also much more likely to have dog-loving neighbors — and those nearby dog-lovers are much more likely to help you find your pup if he ever gets loose or runs away.
- There’s a nearby dog park — and the dogs playing in it look happy and relaxedNot all dog parks are created equal, and you want to be sure the one near your future home will be a pleasant experience for your pooch. Read: the big dogs aren’t picking on the little guys. (For a quick scan of nearby green spaces your dog might enjoy, check out Trulia Maps and the Places to Play layer.) Visit on a weekend morning, when the park is likely to be crowded, says Amy Robinson, a dog trainer and dog expert in Vero Beach, FL. “Observe the owners too. Are they watching their charges or chatting and drinking coffee while their dog is a hundred yards away? How clean is the place? Are people picking up after their dogs? All of these answers will give you an idea of what type of dog and owner frequent the park,” she says. Bonus: Hanging at the dog park can help you make friends in your new neighborhood.
- You can easily find an animal shelter, veterinarian, and pet supply storeThe existence of all three essentials shows that the community cares about the well being of animals, says Ashley Jacobs, CEO of Sitting For A Cause, a site that matches pet owners with local petsitters. “When you have a community who cares about animals, keeping them healthy and controlling the pet population, that’s always a telltale sign that your dog will be welcome and loved,” she says.
- There are plenty of sidewalks and places to walk“We bought our house because of the size of the lot — .98 acres — for the dogs,” says Peter Taylor, a photographer who has three dogs and lives in Mountainbrook, a neighborhood in Charlotte, NC. “And the roads are wide, with very little through traffic, great for walking.” After all, you’ll walk your dog often, so you’ll want a neighborhood that makes this accessible. In addition to sidewalks, are there trails or beaches to explore? Bonus points if the neighborhood provides waste bags or dog-accessible water bowls, which are a sure sign an area welcomes pooches, says Jacobs.
- Places for people also welcome petsIf a neighborhood looks promising, call or stop by some of the local restaurants, stores, or coffeehouses and ask about their policy on pets. Look for dogs lounging on local restaurant patios while their human family members enjoy lunch or dinner nearby. Spotting dog treats on the counter at the neighborhood bakery or brewery is a good sign. These little extras will enhance the quality of life for you and your pet — and make your new neighborhood feel like home.