How Dog-Friendly is San Antonio, Really?

A 2012 study revealed that 44% of Texans owned dogs, placing the Lone Star State in the top ten states for dog ownership in the country. And while the city itself hasn’t cracked Zumper’s top ten most pet-friendly cities, San Antonio does have a celebrity canine, Gale, a two-time winner of the famous Westminster Dog Show.

When it comes to the Alamo City and how well pets are regarded, however, there’s a far more important story to tell.

Dog-Friendly Events and Restaurants

San Antonio prides itself on its reputation as a tourist destination, and that welcoming spirit extends all the way to Fido. VisitSanAntonio.com, the city’s official tourism website, keeps an up-to-date list of places where pets are welcome, from family lodging to attractions and restaurants. It’s a useful resource for locals and visitors alike. When Fiesta season rolls around in the spring, many people look forward to the annual Fiesta Pooch Parade presented by Therapy Animals of San Antonio, a non-profit. (Other Fiesta events are pet-friendly as well.) Looking for a big night out the rest of the year?  With over twenty bars in town open to dogs, local favorites include Viva Taco Land, Friendly Spot, Flying Saucer, Alamo Beer Brewery, and Freetail Brewing Company.

A Bark in the Park?

Serious progress has been made recently toward making the city more “walkable” for us humans, with new greenways, trails, and parks opening up across town. And while not every trail is dog friendly (always check first), there are a number of popular dog runs scattered about. Top picks include the Bark Park of Alamo Heights and the designated dog spaces at Hardberger, McAllister, and Tom Slick. (A complete list of city-managed parks can be found here.)

Striving For “No Kill” Status

In 2006, the city had one of the highest animal euthanasia rates in the country. That didn’t sit right with folks at the San Antonio Area Foundation, who saw a need to minimize unnecessary euthanasia of dogs and cats at local shelters. Thus, in 2007, the foundation set out to unite city animal care professionals, non-profit organizations and countless volunteers to educate the public about leash and vaccination laws and the importance of spaying, neutering, and adopting cats and dogs from shelters. The foundation still hasn’t reached its ultimate goal of becoming known as the nation’s largest no-kill city, but they’re working on it through their Talk About It! initiative and strategic partnerships with organizations like SnipSA and San Antonio Pets Alive!. (Note that for three consecutive months in later 2015 and early 2016, however, the city did reach an important milestone. Ninety percent of animals introduced to the city’s Animal Care Services were released for the first time ever. It was, for many, a crucial step in the right direction.)

Social Savvy

San Antonio residents love their social media, and local veterinarians and animal care advocates have figured out how to use that interest to reconnect found animals with their owners often before the pet is turned over to a shelter. Even small suburban veterinarians like the Leon Springs Animal Hospital use their Facebook pages to help turtles, kittens, and full-grown dogs make it home. Another popular means of locating animals online is SAPets.com, a web platform developed by a local man after his own beloved cat turned up missing.

Wet-Nosed Heroes

Ever caught a glimpse of an active-duty American soldier with a working canine on the evening news? Whether they’re tracking an enemy combatants or checking land for mines and other explosives, those dogs proudly give their all to their jobs–just like their human counterparts.

As it happens the U.S. Department of Defense breeds and trains military service animals right here in “Military City U.S.A.” through Lackland’s 341st Training Squadron, a world-class military canine program. Assisting the professional team with this task is a small army of civilian volunteers who tend the pups for several months, teaching them how to live well alongside humans and other domestic animals.

It’s just one more way San Antonians demonstrate the special relationship they have with animals.

Pamela Price