A Visitor’s Guide for You and Your Dog
At least 600,000 dogs live in New York City, and another 3,000 visit every year to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. According to licensing statistics, New Yorkers prefer to call their dogs Max or Bella. Visiting canines usually have fancier names – the 2015 Best in Show winner was Tashtina Lookin’ for Trouble.
Regardless of pedigree, all dogs are welcome in NYC and more and more visitors are bringing along a canine companion. Traveling with a dog is a conversation starter and will expose you to a side of NYC that pet-less travelers never see – from “yappy hours” to hound hikes and bagel barks.
Hotels are rolling out the red carpet for their doggy visitors, offering amenities like pet beds, bathrobes, special room service menus, even massages and appointments with pet psychics.
A little advance planning will ensure that you and Fido have a safe and enjoyable trip to the city. The information below will help you navigate the rules, regulations and unwritten protocols that govern dogs in NYC. We’ve also uncovered leisure and social activities that will make your trip fun and memorable.
Pet or Service Animal?
Service dogs have an all-access pass to NYC, from Yankee Stadium to Carnegie Hall to the top of the Empire State Building. But the city strictly defines service animals as those helping humans with handicaps – guiding the blind, pulling a wheelchair and the like. Therapy and emotional support animals don’t qualify. Simply putting a vest on your terrier won’t cut it.
Along with a leash (no longer than 6 feet, per NYC laws), make sure your dog has a well fitting collar with an ID tag. If he’s not microchipped, bring along a clear photo on your phone or in your wallet. Carry a certificate of rabies vaccination and proof of hometown registration. And even if Lady would rather die than bite, a muzzle can come in handy. It’s required on the Staten Island ferry and may prove reassuring to those misguided humans who are afraid of dogs.
When it comes to transportation, the smaller the dog, the simpler, which may be why the most popular purebred pooch here is the Yorkie. All the top car and limousine services, such as Carmel, Dial 7, GoAirlink, and SuperShuttle happily transport pets, but prices vary by weight. If your best friend is a Great Dane, you may want to consider a specialty service like Pet Taxi New York, Pet Chauffeur or Canine Car.
Subway, bus and ferry rules dictate that pets must be contained in a way not to annoy other passengers. Toy dogs fit easily into purses, backpacks, and even pockets. Larger pooches often ride in stroller-like carriers, but maneuvering down to the subway platform is no picnic and boarding a crowded city bus virtually impossible.
Taxis are not required to pick up animals, but locals have found that a towel over the shoulder and a friendly smile can improve chances greatly. It’s good form to wipe the seats and give a generous tip. Uber requests that you inform your driver before pickup.
New York canines are conditioned to noise, crowds, and chaos. They generally mind their own business, ignoring humans and other dogs. You will often see a large pack in perfect formation under one-handed control by a professional walker (cell phone in the other hand of course). If your dog is nervous or highly social, prevent her from approaching or jumping up on strangers. Those actions could be misinterpreted as aggression and have negative consequences.
This is probably the most important thing. If you can't keep your dog with you in the hotel then it will be almost impossible to bring your best friend along. Thankfully there are a number of hotels in the city that are more than happy to accomadate all dogs. If you found a hotel you love always call ahead and know what their pet policy is. Some of the best pet-friendly hotels in the city include: the SoHo Grand Hotel which has no weight or size limit and will even accomodate your pooch for free, the Dumont NYC which offers a VIPaws pet program that provides bowls, doggie bags, among other necessaties, and The Muse - Kimpton which has a Pampered Pooch and a Hers and Furs packages that give the dogs in-room pedicures as well as other treats.
Exercise and Leisure
Mapping the human genome was a snap compared to unraveling NYC’s complex regulations about pets in public parks. Dogs on leashes are welcome in most areas of most parks most of the time lol. Leashes can come off in many parks before 9 am and after 9 pm, but only if Fido doesn’t disturb or damage any people, animals, trees, plants, or flowers (no kidding, that’s the city code).
That said, the city is a mecca of off-leash dog runs, with 28 in Manhattan alone. Many are separated into areas for small and large dogs and some have water features to keep your pet cool.
Central Park has no enclosed dog runs but is, nonetheless, a focal point for canine activities. Check out Central Park Paws for helpful information, including a map of dog-friendly, and forbidden areas. There’s also a master calendar that includes canine-oriented events like monthly bagel barks and the annual hound hike.
If your dog likes to swim, head to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. During off-leash hours (5 am – 9 am and 9 pm – 1 am), Dog Beach is open for business. To escape the hustle and bustle of the city, go to Inwood Hill Park and follow the two-mile trail that winds through the woods and offers Hudson River views.
Whether your best friend is a Border Collie or Chinese Crested, there are breed-specific Meetups held in NYC. While your dog socializes with like-minded souls, you can too.
There are far too many annual dog-friendly events to list, but some notable gatherings include the Halloween Dog Parade (usually held the weekend before the 31st), the annual Bark At The Park At Citifield -- a Mets game when dogs are welcome; and a similar event hosted by the Brooklyn Cyclones at MCU Field in Coney Island. (why not treat your hot dog to a Nathan’s hotdog while in the vicinity?)
Food and Drink
Technically only Service Animals (drat those privileged few) are allowed inside NYC restaurants and bars, but the sidewalks (and some patios) belong to plebian pets. You will see dogs nestled under tables all over the city, but for elbow room, bring your buddy to the Boat Basin Cafe along the Hudson River, or Dinosaur Bar-B-Que with locations in Harlem and Brooklyn.
Some restaurants like Barking Dog Luncheonette provide doggy snacks. Shake Shack, with 7 Manhattan locations and growing, offers the Pooch-ini, a doggy sundae studded with their own ShackBurger dog biscuits (they also donate this concoction to many canine fundraisers and dog walks).
No worries if sundaes and bar-be-que are too much for Fido’s constitution. NYC is a veterinary capital of the world. Many canines come here for specialized treatment from oncologists, neurologists, holistic vets and the like. No need to go to a clinic for top flight veterinary care. House Call Vet NYC will come right to your hotel room. InstaVet is another New York service that offers 24/7 support, including a pet ambulance. Call or text their Pet 911 Hotline (917-525-2579) for help.
Sometimes you will want to get away from the “kid” and sightsee on your own (or dine indoors for a change). Your hotel’s concierge can arrange a dog walker/babysitter, or you can drop Lady off at one of NYC’s dozens of doggie daycare centers. These range from no-frills play spaces to full-on luxury spas. Try to time your pickup with the “yappy hours” some hold weekly.
In Case of Emergency
In the unlikely event that you are separated from your pet while in NYC, dial 311, the city’s information hub to report the incident. Then fill out a lost pet report on the NYC Animal Care and Control website. Your pet will likely be found and transported to the NYCACC’s Manhattan shelter on 110th St. The agency has a searchable lost and found database.
Bring Home a Souvenir
Petfinder.com lists more than 150,000 dogs in the vicinity of NYC who need forever homes. One of them could be yours. The neediest cases can be found at the NYC Animal Care and Control, which takes in thousands of dogs annually and does its best to place them. Some have experienced neglect or abuse, and others were surrendered due to poverty. All dogs up for adoption have passed temperament and health assessments. For the cost of a good meal, you can rescue a loving dog and keep the memory of your NYC trip alive for years to come.