How to Build a Pet-Friendly Community in Your Neighborhood

Introducing the fifth story in The GOOD Guide to Making the World Better for Pets (Even If You Don't Own One). This five part series, brought to...

Introducing the fifth story in The GOOD Guide to Making the World Better for Pets (Even If You Don't Own One). This five part series, brought to you by GOOD in partnership with Purina ONE®, explores how we can all share the benefits of having pets in our lives. Check out more stories at GOOD Pets.

If you take a look at your town from a dog’s-eye view, what do you see? Lots of opportunities to walk and sniff and play wherever you’d like—or disapproving looks and streets lined with doors you’re not allowed to walk through?

Amy Burkert and her husband Rod founded after realizing how hard it was to find dog-friendly businesses during their RV travels across the United States. “We’ve been to 47 states with our dogs, Ty and Buster,” Burkert says. “Actually walking the streets and putting our paws to the ground is the best way to get a sense of how welcoming a place is.”

What do the Burkerts (and their pooches) appreciate? “It seems silly, but one of the things I notice right away are pet-waste stations,” she says. “Each one makes it loud and clear that dogs are welcome.” Steven Kaufman, executive director of the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, agrees that enabling pet owners to be responsible is what ultimately leads to acceptance. “Assist people instead of scowling at them by giving them a bag instead of wagging your finger,” he says.

He’s also a fan of championing subsidized spay and neuter programs. The city of Albuquerque, for example, offers free services for the cats and dogs of low-and moderate-income residents. “Start with your city’s health department and work your way up through the elected officials,” he says. “Stick to the financial benefits and they’ll listen. Don’t use emotion-filled stories and anecdotes but financially backed facts about saving money on animal-control services.”

Encouraging local businesses to allow pets can also make a huge difference. “I love the initiative in Annapolis, Maryland, that has local store and restaurant owners placing signs in their windows to let people know that they’re pet-friendly before they even have to ask!” says Burkert.

It might even be easier to establish a pets-welcome policy in your own place of employment than you think. If your boss is nervous about the distraction element, Kaufman suggests creating an open pet policy instead of establishing a Bring Your Dog to Work Day. “That way it’s not just one day of everyone playing with a pet,” he says. “Animals become the norm, and you just don’t blink.” Create registration paperwork and rules of conduct (keeping the needs and fears of those who don’t love animals in mind), and assign staff to evaluate what is and isn’t working as time goes on.

There are proven benefits for the company’s bottom line, too. One specific study from Virginia Commonwealth University showed that pets in the workplace lead to lower stress levels and higher job satisfaction. “The result is happier, more productive employees and potentially lower health care costs,” says Kaufman. You have an excuse to break up your day of sitting or work off a big lunch by taking your dog outside in the middle of the day. “As we like to say, ‘Walk a hound, lose a pound."

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