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The 20 Most Pet-Friendly States in America

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By Grant Suneson, 24/7 Tempo

About half of all American households have a pet, according to a 2017 U.S. Census Bureau study. Every owner wants to give their pet the best quality of life they can, but the reality is that some places make it easier than others. Certain states have made it a point to be pet friendly -- whether that means setting up lots of dog parks or passing strict anti-animal cruelty measures.

24/7 Tempo analyzed the most pet-friendly states. We only considered states that have two key legal protections for animals: states with laws against leaving animals in hot cars and states that have felony penalties for animal cruelty. There are 26 such states in the country. To identify the most pet friendly states, we created an index consisting of three values that indicate the climate for pets in each state: the number of no-kill shelters, the total number of dog parks, and the total dog population, all adjusted for population. No-kill shelters in each state were derived from the No Kill Network, and are as of 10/29/2019.

It should come as no surprise that dogs are, by far, the most popular type of pet in the country, followed by cats, fish, and birds. But there are many other animals that need legal protection and veterinary care -- like many different types of reptiles, marsupials, and other animals you might not expect people to take into their homes. These are the animals you might be surprised people keep as pets.

Though dogs are exceedingly popular in America, there are still more dogs than homes willing to take them in. Each year, an estimated 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Unfortunately, roughly 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats are euthanized, as many shelters do not have the resources to keep all the dogs they get. Though some people may be hesitant to adopt a dog from a shelter rather than buy one from a breeder, sheltered dogs actually have some advantages.


20. Illinois

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> No-kill shelters: 1.1 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 0.9 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 54

> Dog ownership rate: 18,562 (per 100,000 people)

Illinois ranks highly in three key metrics in determining pet friendliness. The state's rates of No-kill shelters, total dog parks, and dog ownership are all among the top 20 in the country. Illinois was also rated as a the top overall state for animal protection laws by the Animal Legal Defense Fund in 2018.


19. Massachusetts

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> No-kill shelters: 1.2 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.3 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: N/A

> Dog ownership rate: 12,315 (per 100,000 people)

In addition to having a high share of No-kill shelters per resident, Massachusetts has some of the strictest animal cruelty laws in the country. Veterinarians are required to report animal abuse; animal abusers can face felony charges; and citizens have legal protection from so-called "Good Samaritan" laws, meaning they cannot face punishment if they break into a hot car to free a dog inside.


18. Indiana

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> No-kill shelters: 0.9 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 0.7 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 23

> Dog ownership rate: 24,194 (per 100,000 people)

Few states love dogs more than Indiana. With more than 24,000 dogs for every 100,000 people in the state, it has the fifth-highest dog ownership rate in the country. It also has a relatively high share of pet-friendly stores -- at 23.


17. Virginia

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> No-kill shelters: 0.7 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.2 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 22

> Dog ownership rate: 19,947 (per 100,000 people)

Virginia is one of the best states for keeping pets healthy. Virginia dogs have plenty of places to exercise, as the state ranks 12th with 1.2 dog parks per 100,000 people. It also has among the highest concentration of veterinarians and veterinary assistants.

16. Louisiana

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> No-kill shelters: 1.1 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 0.6 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 7

> Dog ownership rate: 23,927 (per 100,000 people)

Louisiana is one of just 14 states we considered for this list that has more than one No-kill shelter per 100,000 state residents. This is especially important given the high share of dogs in the state -- nearly 24,000 per 100,000 residents, sixth among considered states. 


15. Connecticut

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> No-kill shelters: 1.1 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.4 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 12

> Dog ownership rate: 14,191 (per 100,000 people)

With 1.1 No-kill shelters and 1.4 dog parks per 100,000 residents, Connecticut ranks in the top 10 among the 26 states we considered for this list. Despite its pet-friendliness, Connecticut residents are much less likely to have dogs than those in most other states. There are just 14,191 dogs per 100,000 Connecticut residents.


14. Florida

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> No-kill shelters: 0.9 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.2 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 100

> Dog ownership rate: 19,766 (per 100,000 people)

Florida is one of just two states with at least 100 pet-friendly stores. It also has a fairly high share of dog parks, with 1.2 parks per 100,000 residents. Floridians are often better able to access care for their pets, as the state has above average shares of veterinarians and veterinary technologists and technicians compared to the nation as a whole.


13. Rhode Island

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> No-kill shelters: 1.5 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 0.9 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 4

> Dog ownership rate: 15,227 (per 100,000 people)

Rhode Island ranks among the top 10 states out of the 26 we considered in several significant measures. The ALDF said Rhode Island ranked sixth among all U.S. states in animal protection laws. It also has the fourth-highest share of No-kill shelters in the country, at 1.5 shelters per 100,000 residents.


12. Washington

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> No-kill shelters: 0.8 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.4 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 36

> Dog ownership rate: 21,352 (per 100,000 people)

Washington ranks highly in a number of measures that indicate it is a very pet-friendly state. It has the ninth-best animal protection laws in the country, according to the ALDF. Among the 26 states we considered, it has the ninth-highest rate of dog parks, at 1.4 parks per 100,000 residents. It also has the sixth highest total number of pet friendly stores.


11. Arizona

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> No-kill shelters: 1.5 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 0.3 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 51

> Dog ownership rate: 25,071 (per 100,000 people)

Arizona is one of just four states with more than 1.5 No-kill shelters per 100,000 residents. This may be due to the fact that Arizona has the third-highest dog population, relative to the human population in the state. For every 100,000 people in Arizona, there are over 25,000 dogs.


10. North Dakota

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> No-kill shelters: 1.1 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.4 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: N/A

> Dog ownership rate: 18,288 (per 100,000 people)

Dogs in North Dakota have a lot of room to play and exercise. The state has the seventh-highest rate of dog parks in states we considered, with 1.4 parks per 100,000 people. It also has the tenth-highest share of veterinarians per capita.


9. South Dakota

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> No-kill shelters: 0.6 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.5 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 1

> Dog ownership rate: 24,937 (per 100,000 people)

Few states love dogs like South Dakota. The state has nearly 25,000 dogs per 100,000 people, which is the fourth-highest dog ownership rate among the 26 states we considered for this list. With nearly 1.5 dog parks per 100,000 people, the state has one of the highest rates of dog parks per capita.


8. New Hampshire

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> No-kill shelters: 1.5 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.5 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 12

> Dog ownership rate: 15,629 (per 100,000 people)

Among the states we considered, New Hampshire ranked fifth in the rates of both No-kill shelters and dog parks per 100,000 residents. Despite these pet friendly indicators, the state doesn't actually have all that many dogs -- just 15,629 per 100,000, one of the lower rates among states we considered.


7. Tennessee

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> No-kill shelters: 0.9 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 0.9 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 27

> Dog ownership rate: 31,861 (per 100,000 people)

Tennessee has by far the highest share of dog ownership on this list. For every 100,000 Tennessee residents, there are 31,861 dogs. The next closest state, Kansas, has less than 27,000 dogs per 100,000 people.


6. Kansas

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> No-kill shelters: 1.2 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.0 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 18

> Dog ownership rate: 26,584 (per 100,000 people)

With more than 26,500 dogs per 100,000 residents, Kansas has the second-highest dog-ownership rate among states we considered. The state also ranks among the top 10 for No-kill shelters, with 1.24 per 100,000 people.


5. Wisconsin

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> No-kill shelters: 1.3 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.7 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 26

> Dog ownership rate: 19,575 (per 100,000 people)

Among the 26 states we considered for this list, Wisconsin is one of just seven with more than 1.3 No-kill shelters per 100,000 state residents. It also has a very high share of dog parks, with more than 1.7 parks per 100,000 people.


4. Oregon

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> No-kill shelters: 1.0 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 2.1 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 10

> Dog ownership rate: 21,882 (per 100,000 people)

Oregon is among the best states for healthy dogs. It has by far the most dog parks per capita in the country, with more than two parks per 100,000 residents. Oregon also has the second highest share of veterinarians among all states.


3. Vermont

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> No-kill shelters: 2.1 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.0 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 5

> Dog ownership rate: 22,673 (per 100,000 people)

Vermont has by far the most No-kill shelters among the 26 states we considered for this list. For every 100,000 Vermont residents, there are just over two No-kill shelters. This is important, as the state has a fairly high dog population -- more than 22,000 per 100,000 people.


2. Colorado

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> No-kill shelters: 1.3 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.8 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 25

> Dog ownership rate: 23,685 (per 100,000 people)

Veterinarians are 67% more common per capita in Colorado than in the average U.S. state -- the highest share among states we considered for this list. Contributing to Colorado's reputation for dog-friendliness, it ranks among the top 10 states we considered in terms of No-kill shelters, dog parks, and dog ownership rates per 100,000 people.


1. Maine

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> No-kill shelters: 1.9 (per 100,000 people)

> Dog parks: 1.7 (per 100,000 people)

> Pet-friendly stores: 12

> Dog ownership rate: 22,415 (per 100,000 people)

Maine ranks as the most pet-friendly state in the country, as every animal there is given every opportunity to live a long, healthy life. Animals are protected by the third-best animal cruelty laws in the country, according to the ALDF. Maine has the second-highest share of No-kill shelters and the fourth-highest share of dog parks among considered states. It also has a 55% higher concentration of veterinarians than the average state -- the third best rate among considered states.

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