Welcome to Dogtown USA

In DOG FANCY'S search for the best cities in which to be a dog, we discovered innovative shelter programs, generous amenities, thoughtful policies, and many wonderful dog-lovers.

By | Posted: Tue Sep 25 00:00:00 PDT 2001

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San Francisco
When Vicki Kng worked in San Francisco, she never worried about what Augie, her Portuguese Water Dog, did all day. She put him in the car and took him with her. Like many office buildings in downtown San Francisco, the one Kng and her husband, Richard, worked in was dog-friendly, and so were many restaurants and shops in the neighborhood.

"There's a whole dog subculture in San Francisco's financial district," says Kng, who runs a Web company with Richard and, on her own time, informs people about dogparks throughout the country on her website dogpark.com. "Restaurants would set up tables outside so your dog could go out with you. He loved it."

When she and Richard gave up commuting and set up shop in their house in nearby Marin County, Augie missed city life. "He was depressed," Kng says with a laugh. "He missed all of his friends." It's easy to understand why. Between 110,000 and 120,000 dogs live in the 7-square-mile city, considered by some the dog capital of the world. That's one dog for about every seven people, most of whom believe their dogs have every right to enjoy the wonders of the Golden Gate City. In fact, the city claims to host the largest dog-friendly street fair in the United States-the Animal WingDing. The August 2000 event drew 30,000 people and 15,000 dogs-a record number, organizers say. Further, once a year, in August, the San Francisco Giants open Pacific Bell Park to dogs and their owners.

"The city as a whole embraces dogs," says Judy Nemzoff, spokesperson for the San Francisco SPCA.

Take the 27,000-square-foot shelter where she works. Rather than place dogs in cages on concrete floors, dogs live in what employees call condos or apartmentseach outfitted with rugs, futons, overstuffed chairs, and plants. And each includes a window overlooking a courtyard that fills the room with natural light. The dogs see the world through Plexiglas rather than steel bars, helping them learn to live in a real home. And because each shares its condo with another dog, they learn to socialize.

They also interact with plenty of people, namely the SPCA's volunteers who walk, pet, and play with the dogs. Behavior specialists also visit to correct problems that could complicate finding a good homeand to make sure that a prospective adoptive family knows what it's getting. As with most shelters, all dogs are neutered or spayed.

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