Some Tips on Having a Dog in NYC
Written by Charlene Sloan for Broadway Barks, Jan 2014
Many urban dwellers think city life means they can’t have a pet. They say, “I really want a pet, but I work all day,” or “I want a dog, but it’s hard to find a building that allows dogs.” These are legitimate concerns, but they should not be deal breakers. Many city slickers have happy, healthy pets. Most animals just need food, water, care, and some attention to be happy, and with millions of homeless animals being euthanized every year, it isn’t really important whether they live in the shadows of skyscrapers or in the shade of trees as long as they have a safe place to live. So, city people rejoice! With a little bit of research and some careful planning, people living in big cities can enjoy the companionship of a pet, while also providing a homeless animal a comfortable, safe place to live. Broadway Barks researched the biggest issues for urban pet owners and compiled some remedies to make their dreams of having a pet come true.
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Home Sweet Home
The biggest obstacle for many pet owners in big cities is finding a place to live. Many rental apartment buildings do not allow pets of any kind, and some will only allow pets with certain restrictions (e.g. size, breed, number, etc.). Some buildings where residents own their units also have restrictions against pets that are implemented by co-op boards or homeowners’ associations. If you don’t already have a pet and you want to adopt one, make sure you inquire into your building’s rules and restrictions. And don’t assume that because you own the place you can have a pet. Be sure to check your co-op or HOA paperwork to make sure that pets are allowed and to understand any restrictions. If you live in a building that does not allow pets and you really want one—move! There are lots of buildings that do allow pets and the numbers of places are growing every day. One fabulous resource for identifying pet-friendly residences is ApartmentList.com. On this site, you can search for apartments that are pet-friendly in nearly every major city in the US. You can also use the site’s new “roommates” function to find pet-minded roommates in Boston, Chicago, NYC, LA, and San Francisco. If you are looking to buy instead of rent, many realtors have a great handle on which buildings are pet-friendly and can also guide you toward neighborhoods that have amenities such as dog runs and off-leash dog parks!
Life in a big city is usually filled with hustle and bustle. Many prospective pet owners fear that having a pet and being gone for most of the day at work is cruel to the animals. But considering the alternative of being on the streets or in a kill shelter, many animals are grateful for a safe, comfortable place to live. It is true that many animals, especially dogs, are extremely social beings and need interaction. However, most dogs will be happy to snooze or window gaze while you are at work. You can also provide them with bones, chew toys, Kongs, and other toys/games that are designed to keep dogs busy. All dogs need time outside to do their “business” and to enjoy some exercise and fresh air. While some dogs are happy with a short walk around the block, other dogs require more time to run and play to burn off excess energy. Most big cities have plenty of sidewalks and walking paths where dogs can be walked on a leash. If you are a jogger, many dogs enjoy a quick run with their human. And for younger dogs and those with more energy there are services offered in many big cities that can help take care of your pet’s needs during the day. Professional dog walkers and dog runners are pretty affordable and can be a big help if you get stuck at work or if you have a young dog that can’t “hold it.” There are many resources available to find reputable dog walkers. Here are just a few: www.dogwalker.com, www.care.com/dog-walkers, www.findadogwalker.com.
Big cities often have off-leash dog parks where dogs can run freely and socialize with other dogs. Of course, use of these dog parks usually requires that your dog be properly licensed according to the local and state laws, so be sure to check and comply with the laws in your area. (Properly licensing and microchipping your dog and making sure they have identification tags will also help ensure that your dog will be returned to you if he ever gets lost.) Dog parks are not just great fun for the dogs; people often enjoy socializing there as well. They can be a great place to meet fellow dog lovers and get valuable information about issues related to your pets such as recommended veterinarians, dog-walkers, groomers, etc. Here are some links to help you find dog parks in your area: www.dogpark.com, www.doggoes.com,www.dogchannel.com, and www.dogfriendly.com.
If you don’t feel good about leaving your dog at home alone or relying upon a dog-walking service, doggie daycare may be a better option for you. Canine daycare businesses have boomed in recent years, and chances are there is one near you. National franchises like Dogtopia and Central Bark Doggy Day Care have locations in several states and are adding locations all the time. These businesses offer a variety of options including half- or full-day playtime, overnight boarding, grooming, and training. Local daycare businesses like Biscuits and Bath and Happy Paws in NYC also offer transportation, veterinary care, dog walking, and boutiques stocked with food, treats, and other pet supplies. Doggie daycare facilities all have their unique features, such as webcams so you can check in on your fur-baby from your work computer or cell phone. Most daycares provide the dogs with cage-free and monitored playtime, as well as planned breaks where the dogs are crated to get some rest. Dog daycare facilities often submit new doggie customers to a short test to make sure they get along with other dogs, and the dogs are usually separated by size so they can play safely. Of course, all dogs entering daycare must be fully vaccinated and licensed. Search the Internet or your local phone book to find doggie daycare facilities in your city. The dogs spend your workday playing and socializing so when you pick them up at the end of the day they are well exercised and well adjusted. As the saying goes, “A tired dog is a happy dog.”
Thankfully, veterinarians are plentiful in big cities, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding one close to you. However, just as you find a pediatrician before a baby is born, you should decide on a veterinarian before you get a new pet. Ask around for references and remember that when choosing a vetyou are choosing a medical professional, so the process will require a little bit of research. It may seem a little over-the-top, but consider arranging to meet a prospective vet without your pet to get a feel for the place and ask any questions you may have without distractions. While you’re in the office you can look around to see that the space is clean and organized and that the staff appears professional and attentive. It’s also a good idea to ask about how many vets and vet technicians are on staff and what the office policies are regarding urgent and emergency appointments, how animals staying overnight are cared for, and what basic and surgical services they provide. Good communication is important in all health-care relationships, so don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, and don’t be shy about not selecting a vet if you don’t feel comfortable. And if you have concerns about the quality of care your pet is getting after you have selected a vet, don’t be embarrassed about switching. Just remember to request a copy of your pet’s medical records to take to the new vet. Here are a few veterinarian locators to help you start your search: www.VetsNearYou.com, www.vetlocator.com, and www.healthypet.com.
Another important consideration for all pet owners is the financial commitment you make when you get a pet. This is especially relevant when it comes to your veterinarian because medical care for your furry friend is likely to be your biggest expense. Of course most vets will take credit cards, and many vets will accept payments from credit services like Care Credit, which is designed specifically for pet health-care expenses. Care Credit offers a no-interest or low-interest grace period that may help you if you can pay the money back within a few months. Some vets will allow you to make monthly payments, and your bank will often grant a loan for an emergency medical expense. However, the best plan is to be prepared and put some money aside to use for your pet’s routine care and for emergency medical expenses. Another option is pet insurance, which can help cover regular medical checkups and some emergencies. The Humane Society of the United States recommends PetPlan; other companies include VPI, Healthy Paws, and Pet’s Best.
As the weather warms up, many people can’t wait to open their windows to enjoy the fresh air. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous for pets living in multi-level buildings. Cats are especially vulnerable due to their inquisitive nature and their penchant for perching in high places and gazing out of windows. Cats can become so interested in a bird or other animal that they become distracted and fall. Unscreened windows are so dangerous and injuries from them so common that veterinarians have coined the term “High-Rise Syndrome.” A fall from even a two-story window can result in broken limbs and pelvises, punctured lungs, internal bleeding—and even death. These injuries are compounded by the erroneous belief many people have that cats always land on their feet and are able to survive such a fall. However, a fall from a short distance may not give the cat time to adjust its body to land on its feet, and high falls can cause the cat to land with its feet spread apart, which can result in severe head and pelvis injuries. Even when a cat appears to survive a fall, it may sustain internal injuries that are not immediately apparent. Worse yet, a cat may initially survive a fall out of a window only to then be hit by a passing car. If a pet does fall, it is important to take it to the veterinarian immediately. Preventing High-Rise Syndrome is easy. Make sure all windows have sturdy screens that are installed tightly into each window frame. Remember that cats are very flexible, so childproof window guards and adjustable window screens may still pose a danger to them. And don’t forget that cats are not the only animals to accidentally fall from windows. Dog owners living in multi-story buildings should take the same precautions to prevent injury to their pets.
Train For Safety
Basic training is a good idea for any pet, but it can be especially important for pets living in a big city. With crowded sidewalks and busy streets it is important that your dog is trained to walk properly on a leash and is comfortable with the sights and sounds of the noisy city. If something goes wrong and your dog gets loose, making sure they can obey basic commands such as “come” or “stay” could save their life. Good training can also protect your pet if you happen to encounter a stray animal, thus ensuring that your dog will be focused on you and your commands, regardless of distractions. Another thing to consider: Where will the dog go potty? Most buildings require that you use a specific stairwell or elevator to take pets in and out, and some have a designated spot. Otherwise you’ll need to walk them to a grassy area. Small dogs might be able to be trained to use a “potty patch” to go inside.
Food & Getting Around Town
Lugging heavy bags or cans of pet food home from the store is no fun, but this can be the reality for city dwellers who don’t have cars. Thankfully, there are a myriad of businesses that can deliver pet food and other supplies right to your door! These businesses offer a wide selection of pet food and other supplies, and many offer the ability to schedule regular repeat deliveries so you will never run out of food. Many businesses also offer free or low delivery rates, which can be important when ordering a 50-pound bag of dog food. Pet Flow, Pet Food Direct, Wag.com, DrsFosterSmith.com, Chewy, and PetCo are just a few companies that will ship almost anywhere. Amazon is also a great resource as long as your order qualifies for free shipping. Also, check your local phone book to find local pet supply stores that deliver in your neighborhood.
If you want to venture into town for errands or just take in the sights with your pet, you might be surprised to know that many big cities allow animals on public transportation. Many city buses, subways, and trains will allow pets in carriers, and some allow leashed pets as long as they are behaved and do not take up a seat. It is best to check with your local public transportation office to get their specific rules and guidelines. Some taxi services will also allow leashed pets or pets in carriers, but it is usually up to the individual drivers, so it is best to call ahead rather than flagging one down just to be to told that your pet cannot ride. To be more confident that your ride is pet-friendly, enlist a pet taxi service like Tails of the City in Washington, DC, Paws Butler in Chicago, or Pet Chauffeur in NYC. For nationwide pet taxi services check out 1-800 Pet Taxi, where you can search for pet taxis by state.
Photo credit: Foster Dogs NYC