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The Most Dog-Friendly States To Visit In 2021 (+Overall State Ranking)

Road-tripping with your pet can be fun. But making sure you have a list of friendly hotels, plenty of pet-friendly attractions or even just a nice beach to go to can be a headache. To help our dog-loving travelers, we rated states by their dog-friendliness for everyone traveling with their canines.

Ranking the most pet-friendly states for visitors

When traveling with your pet, we wish it were as easy as throwing your dog in the back and putting your foot to the pedal. And with nearly 50 million households owning a dog in the US today, it seems everyone wishes it were simpler to take Rover to a destination where dogs are welcome.

37% of pet owners have chosen not to travel at all rather than leave their dogs at home. 10% have tried to sneak their dog into a hotel with their luggage, and, yes, 3% have tried sneaking their dog onto a plane as a baby (for real).

But, while more of us insist on taking our beloved companions with us everywhere we go, not every state is as accommodating to our dogs as others. Therefore, we investigated all fifty states and ranked them for their pet-friendliness taking a look at several factors like pet-friendly hotels, pet-friendly restaurants, and even places with outdoor seating.

Factors we used to rank states for dog-loving visitors and tourists:

  • Animal Cruelty Laws (25%)
  • Pet-friendly hotels and accommodation (20%)
  • Pet-friendly restaurants (10%)
  • Pet-friendly attractions and activities (10%)
  • Pet services including boutiques and veterinary services (20%)
  • Dog-friendly hiking trails (15%)

How we compiled data for the rankings

To keep you and your four-legged friend safe, we relied on the Animal Legal Defense Fund report of 2019 that ranks each state through animal welfare laws. This ranking was then converted into an overall weight of 25%.

Pet-friendly accommodation, restaurants, attractions, and services were pulled from Go Pet Friendly, indicating the number of listings available for each state.

To make it fair to smaller states who could not compete with sheer numbers, our math whizzes here at Pawsafe compared the overall figures for accommodation and on Booking.com and Camping USA. This gave us a percentage of total housing and that is pet-friendly.

The number of dog-friendly restaurants was taken in proportion to the total number of eateries according to Statista.com.

Total services and attractions in each state were measured against the number of pet-owning households per state.

AllTrails’ helpful dog-friendly filter helped us narrow down hiking trails which allow canines so that you and your best friend can get back to nature in peace. This was taken as a percentage of total trails available in the state.

Top 15 Dog-Friendly States

1. Arkansas

On our list of top fifteen states, the first state to visit with your dog is an underrated gem. Arkansas boasts over 360 pet-friendly restaurants for you and your pup to enjoy and a combined 344 services.

68% of Arkansas trails are considered dog-friendly, although be sure to check their leash laws 37% of their total accommodation also accepts pets, making them exceptionally welcoming to any four-legged traveling companions.

In fact, Arkansas was named the most “dog-loving state” by the American Medical Veterinary Association.

With its many activities, there’s no reason to leave your dog in a hotel either. It has eight dog parks and 43 pet-friendly nature and parks you can visit, such as the Crater of Diamonds State Park or the Buffalo National River. So, Arkansas can keep you busy for weeks.

Leah Dipietro from the Division of Arkansas Tourism shares:

"Arkansas is a great place to travel with your furry friends! We’re known as The Natural State for our scenic beauty and outdoor activities, which are perfect to take part in with your pet. Many spots across Arkansas also welcome dogs in their establishments. For trip planning ideas and other information, visit Arkansas.com"

Also, if you're feeling a little alone on your travels? Remember, apps like BarkHappy can help you profile your dog and set up playdates with other dogs in your area.

2. Maine

For such a small state, Maine has much to offer you and your pup. It ranks third in terms of overall animal rights and protection laws. It even requires that dogs wear a seatbelt or be kept in an enclosed part of the vehicle when driving, for safety’s sake.

But Maine is not just about the safety of you and your pet. A total of 3% of restaurants and pubs are pet-friendly and there are plenty of attractions and services relative to their size and population.

When visiting Maine with your dog, be sure to stop by Acadia National Park or play off-leash at Little Long Pond. You can hike the northern part of the Appalachian Trail in Baxter State Park or enjoy the eateries and craft beer of Portland.

"Maine is known for outdoor activities and the state welcomes dogs as part of the family. Many of the southern beaches allow dogs in the off season and have warm weather hours in summer. The Greater Portland region has many restaurants that welcome dogs to join their humans on outdoor decks for dining or cocktails. Greater Portland has many hotels and resorts that are very dog welcoming. By way of example- Inn by the Sea located on the Maine coast  just 7 miles south of Portland has been welcoming dogs and their owners for over 25 years with over the top pampering and no pet fees. Dogs are welcome to join their humans in the fireplace lounge inside or outside on the seaside decks for meals- the hotel even has a dog menu. Inn by the Sea has also fostered rescue dogs on site for five years, and 156 dogs to date have been adopted from the Inn. We love our visiting VIPS's- very important pets!"  Rauni Kew, PR Manager, Inn by the Sea 

3. Illinois

Like Maine, Illinois makes the tenth most pet-friendly state in large part due to its animal welfare laws. It has the most felony laws for cruelty, neglect, abuse, and fighting. It also has clear standards for basic care and may block repeat offenders from owning animals in the future.

You can choose from over 800 pet-friendly accommodations, 279 restaurants, 286 attractions, and 634 services when visiting Illinois. Their services also include 170 veterinarians to keep your dog fit and healthy on your travels.

This state is filled with charming adventures, such as bed and breakfasts, steamboats, and vineyards. Overall, a happy place for you to bring your dog along.

4. Oregon

Oregon falls second behind Illinois as the state most protected by animal welfare laws.

It also boasts over 1000 accommodations willing to take you and your pet, so there are plenty of places to stay.

In terms of attractions and activities, Oregon lists 151 attractions you can visit with your dog, 38 beaches, 13 breweries, and 58 dog parks.

Perhaps the biggest drawcard for Oregon is Portland, described as the second most walkable city for dogs after San Francisco. Not only that, but Portland could be considered one of the best cities for dogs in the US in general.

Portland boasts more dog parks per capita than any other city. Other canine-popular attractions include Sellwood Riverfront Park, Forest Park, and Wildwood Trail.

Allison Keeney from TravelOregon.com shares with us:

The state of Oregon loves our furry family members. Whether it’s digging in sand along the 363 miles of public coastline or mushroom hunting in our lush forests, swimming in pristine lakes or enjoying one of the dozens of urban dog parks in the city, Oregon is a dog’s best friend.

5. New Hampshire

Fifth on our list is New Hampshire. New Hampshire has 109 total services, including 48 doggy daycares and 39 veterinary services. This ranks them second in overall services per pet-owning household in the state.

They also have 260 attractions you can visit with your dog and are 13th in terms of animal welfare laws, including dog seat belt laws like Maine.

As with most of New England, Go Pet Friendly recommends visiting New Hampshire in the fall when the foliage is at its most spectacular. However, try to time your trip for late October, after most of the tourists have already left, so that you can explore in peace.

Great attractions include the White Mountains trail or the seafood restaurants of historic Portsmouth.

6. Vermont

Sixth on our list of pet-friendly states to travel to is Vermont. The Green Mountain State is filled with an outdoorsy vibe that your dog will love.

While the foliage in the fall is breath-taking, beware of visiting when there are too many tourists. June or July may be better, for the most comfortable weather.

Attractions you and your dog will never forget include the Gondola SkyRide in Stowe that will take you to the top of Mt. Mansfield. From there you can hike down on the dog-friendly trails.

Fido may also enjoy romping in the pond and off-leash trails at Dog Mount in St. Johnsbury or explore the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury.

7. Virginia

Virginia is the perfect mix of old-world charm and natural wonder to explore with your dog.

It has 728 pet-friendly accommodations and 180 restaurants. Not to mention 357 unique attractions worth a visit.

Attractions include Colonial Williamsburg with its marvelous reenactments of colonial life. There are also spectacular views from the Natural Bridge, north of Roanoke, and the surrounding hiking trails.

And for those interested in all things witchy and paranormal, one can always stop by historical Salem.

Alexandria is considered the most pet-friendly city to stop by in Virginia. It has myriad boutiques, historic hotels like the Jefferson, and even cruises, all of which are happy to have you bring your dog with you.

8. South Carolina

With the breath-taking Atlantic Ocean and the Blue Ridge Mountains bookending either side of the state, it is no surprise that South Carolina makes the list of the top fifteen states to visit with your pup.

South Carolina is also fifth in line as one of the safest places to travel with your dog due to its animal rights legislation.

It has nearly 1000 listed pet-friendly accommodations, including both hotels and camping grounds, as well as 366 pet-friendly restaurants to choose from.

You can enjoy paddling and hiking in South Carolina, in addition to the pet-friendly beaches and boardwalks of Myrtle Beach.

Be sure not to miss the guided tours at Magnolia Gardens and Plantation in Charleston, which starts at the dog-friendly Nature Trail and Nature Boat.

9. Nebraska

Sand dunes, mountain ranges, and sprawling prairies make Nebraska one of the most picturesque landscapes to explore with your dog.

For those that want to step back in time, there are tons of historic tourist spots that welcome Fido. You can visit the Agate Fossil Beds, the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, or see the Niobrara National Scenic River’s waterfalls up close from a Kayak.

Don’t forget to wander the trails of Fort Robinson State Park.

Go Pet Friendly lists 294 accommodations you can stay at with your dog, along with 114 attractions and 66 services.

This puts it squarely in the top ten most pet-friendly states in the US.

10. Massachusetts

Like Oregon, Massachusetts boasts one of the most dog-friendly cities in the US. In Boston, you can visit five dog parks, or the pet-friendly Carson Beach (but remember to bring your leash).

There are a host of pet-friendly guided tours to bring you up to date on the historic city’s legacy.

BHC Water Taxi also allows you to bring your dog along for a heated trip up the Charles River.

Also, Massachusetts is the fifth highest-ranking state in terms of animal rights laws. It harbors 360 pet-friendly accommodations, 141 restaurants, and a whopping 330 attractions that allow you to bring your pet.

The attractions include a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and the beautiful towns of Plymouth and Provincetown.

11. Kansas

For travelers looking for the most “off the beaten path” hidden gems to visit with their canine companions, Kansas makes the top of the list.

Enjoy the Bison-filled Flint Hills’ tallgrass prairie or the ancient Monument Rocks in the badlands.

Kansas has over 73 pet-friendly attractions and activities, including the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum and the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm Historic Site.

With 156 listed pet-friendly restaurants, over 3% of their eateries accept pets, giving you ample places to dine with your best friend.

They also have 453 accommodations, meaning nearly 63% of all Kansas hotels and camping grounds are happy to welcome you and your dog.

12. Indiana

Indiana is ranked 12th out of fifty states for its progressive animal rights laws.

Furthermore, with 453 accommodations that allow animals, a whopping 46% of its hotels and camping grounds are considered pet-friendly. This allows you plenty of choices when it comes to finding a place to stay.

Visiting the Southern tip of Lake Michigan will take you to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Here you and Fido can explore trails, marshes, pet-friendly beaches, and crystal-clear waters.

May through September also allows you to visit Amish country, with its quilted gardens and murals.

You may also enjoy the Victorian architecture, shopping, restaurants, and history of Madison and the National Historic Landmark District.

Amy Howell from VisitIndiana.com expresses:

Indiana welcomes all, including furry friends. Several hotels have pet-friendly rooms. Many businesses welcome pets, proving water, treats and even have designated areas for them. So bring your furry friends to Indiana and explore what the Hoosier State has to offer.

13. Michigan

Michigan is not only ideal for road trips with your canine best friend, but it may also be one of the safer places to travel soon. Legislation has been proposed to make it illegal to have dogs sitting on the driver’s lap in Michigan, subject to hefty fines.

While this may seem like a negative, it does mean dogs may soon be required by law to be safely buckled in, just like kids when you are traveling.

Michigan is also the number one state for attractions you can view and enjoy with your dog. Boasting 1101 sites, there is little you can’t do in Michigan with your dog.

Incredibly gorgeous in the fall, you can board a ferry to Mackinac Island, where there are no cars allowed, and you can soak in nature in peace.

You can also roam the Dunes at North Point Nature reserve or visit the recreation of the Nelis’ Dutch Village Festival.

There is also a walking tour of Detroit’s oldest ethnic area or Tahquamenon Falls State Park’s waterfalls.

14. Minnesota

Nearly 40% of Minnesota’s accommodation qualifies as pet-friendly. This includes 356 hotels, 3 vacation properties, and 135 campgrounds.

It also boasts 188 dog-welcoming restaurants and pubs, 241 attractions, and 274 services. This includes nearly 100 boarding facilities and another 100 veterinary facilities, allowing you to travel to Minnesota with peace of mind.

With 55 state forests and 75 state parks, this is the perfect place to get back to nature with your pooch. Be sure to visit the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis.

In fact, it’s worth visiting Minneapolis with your pup even if the great outdoors isn’t your vibe. In 2016, the city was named the 8th most dog-friendly city in the US by SmartAsset

The Midwestern city boasts tons of restaurants, many of whom have outdoor seating. Some even have menus for your pooch. For instance, the Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar and Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room both cater to dogs with their specialized canine cuisine.

Provided you make sure to purchase an off-leash permit, you can also enjoy their dog parks and their canine-embracing beer scenes.

15. Pennsylvania

Right behind North Carolina in terms of accommodation is Pennsylvania. It hosts 545 hotels that will house you and your dog, as well as four vacation properties and 198 campgrounds.

Its highest score is in the services department. You can find 203 boarding and daycare facilities in Pennsylvania if you need a little time to yourself. There are also 84 listed pet sitters, 75 boutiques and supply shops, and nearly 200 veterinarians standing ready to help if needed.

Philadelphia brags about being a dog-lovers paradise, where you can visit Independence Hall or the Liberty Bell with your furbaby. You can also enjoy their four dog parks or even their ghost tours.

Dog-friendly state ranking factors

Animal Cruelty Laws

Our first consideration when ranking states according to their pet-friendliness was the overall score for animal welfare laws. The top ten states, according to the 2019 Animal Legal Defense Fund, are:

pet-friendly-animal-welfare-pawsafe

While the majority of these laws applied to cases of neglect, various kinds of abuse, fighting, or standards of primary care, it’s important to remember when traveling that some states have specific laws regarding how you travel with your dog.

For eight states in particular, such as Hawaii, your dog needs to be restrained either in a crate, carrier, or dog seat belt.

It is essential to research each state before you travel to ensure you aren’t at risk of breaking any laws.

On the subject of states and animal welfare, special mention should be made of Delaware. It deserves to be noted for being the only official no-kill shelter state in the US. California is also worth mentioning for being the only state where pet insurance is mandatory.

Pet-friendly Accommodation

After checking which states had the most laws protecting animals, we turned our attention to the next big concern for those of us who want to travel with our dogs: where can we stay?

pet-friendly-accomodation-pawsafe

Go Pet Friendly helped us identify which states had the most accommodations available for you and any fur friends you want to bring with you. We added up hotels, vacation homes, and campsites together for a total weighted 20% of the final mark.

But to keep things fair to the smaller states, we also looked at the total available accommodation in the state and made our list according to the ratio of pet-friendly to non-pet-friendly accommodation. Once we found this ratio, we scored each value on a curve that allowed us to come up with a true rank.

Pet-friendly Restaurants

Having a place to stay with your dog is only half the battle.

Anybody traveling with their dog knows it can be tough to leave your dog alone in a hotel room while you go out to get a bite to eat.

Many hotels or pet-friendly accommodations won’t allow it.

Therefore we also looked at places you can eat and take your dog along with you.

pet-friendly-restaurants-pawsafe

Once again, we accounted for the total number of eating establishments and ranked states according to the percentage that allowed animals. This allowed us to come up with a number that we could score on a curve to determine their ranking.

Pet-friendly Attractions and Activities

Once fed and housed, the next important factor is what to do once there. We added up the listed dog parks, nature walks, local attractions, beaches, breweries, wineries, and shopping centers for this aspect.

pet-friendly-attractions-pawsafeTo balance for size and population, we measured the results against the total pet-owning households in the state. After determining a grade, we scored them on a curve to determine overall rank.

Services

Wherever you travel with your dog, it’s helpful to know what type of services are available. For this section—weighted 20% of the total score— we added together boutiques and supplies, boarding and daycare facilities, pet sitters, and veterinarians.

pet-friendly-services-pawsafe

For this metric, we also accounted for the total pet-owning households in the state and compared this relative to the total services available. After determining a percent, we scored all states on a curve to determine overall rank.

Hiking trails

Any trip with your dog is incomplete without a chance to explore a state’s natural beauty. Of course, not every state allows dogs in their preserved areas, and some insist on leashes. Nevertheless, All Trails’ helpful dog-friendly filter helped us to identify the states with the most trails you can visit with your dog.

These were balanced against the total number of trails in the state to find the states that had the highest proportion of dog-friendly trails.

The top fifteen are:

dog-friendly-hiking-trails-pawsafe

States ranked in order according to dog-friendliness.

Now that you know what the top states are in each department, maybe you’re wondering about those that didn’t make it to the top of the list.

In that case, here is the full ranking of each state you may want to visit with your dog.

overall-pet-friendly-state-ranking-pawsafe

*Note: a lack of census data on Alaska and Hawaii for the number of pet households made the dataset for these states incomplete.

Regardless of where you’re going, it’s good to know that more and more states and cities are choosing to accommodate your dogs as well as you.

Whether it’s animal-friendly accommodation, plentiful attractions, and adventures for your and canine, or restaurants you and your dog can both enjoy, ensure that you research each state thoroughly to keep your trip stress and hassle-free.

Also, remember to buckle in your pup when traveling so that everyone is safe on the road. Happy travels!

References

Adams, Andie. “California Adds First-of-Its-Kind Pet Insurance Regulations.” NBC 7 San Diego, 30 Sept. 2014, www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/california-becomes-first-to-regulate-pet-insurance/1998133/.

Animal Legal Defense Fund. ANIMAL PROTECTION U.S. STATE LAWS RANKINGS REPORT 2019. Animal Legal Defense Fund, 2019, aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2019-Animal-Protection-US-State-Laws-Rankings-Report.pdf.

“Barkansas | Arkansas.Com.” Www.Arkansas.Com, www.arkansas.com/barkansas. Accessed 21 Feb. 2021.

Bender, Kelli. “The Most Walkable Cities for Dogs in the U.S.” PEOPLE.Com, 25 Jan. 2017, people.com/pets/the-most-walkable-cities-for-dogs-in-the-u-s.

Cunningham, Caroline. “Dog-Friendly Philly: Where to Eat, Stay, and Play With Your Pooch.” Philadelphia Magazine, 14 June 2019, www.phillymag.com/things-to-do/dog-friendly-philly/.

Francis, Billy. “The 12 Most Pet-Friendly Cities in the U.S.” BringFido, 19 Feb. 2021, www.bringfido.com/blog/most-pet-friendly-cities-us.

“GoPetFriendly.” Happy Tails Canine Adventure Tours, www.gopetfriendly.com/activities/attractions/nc/charlotte/happy-tails-canine-adventure-tours. Accessed 21 Feb. 2021.

Newsdesk. “Stats: 37% of Dog Owners Have Skipped Vacation to Stay With Dog.” Travel Agent Central, 12 July 2018, www.travelagentcentral.com/running-your-business/stats-37-dog-owners-have-skipped-vacation-to-stay-dog.

“U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics.” American Veterinary Medical Association, www.avma.org/resources-tools/reports-statistics/us-pet-ownership-statistics. Accessed 21 Feb. 2021.