Dog-Friendly Guide to San Francisco, CA

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Population: 874,961
Off-leash dog parks: 37
Accommodation: 102
Restaurants, pubs, & cafes: 187
Most popular dog breed: Labradoodle

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San Francisco is a city of dog lovers, so much so that there are more dogs in the city than there are human children! This city offers 37 off-leash dog parks, including beaches, and 187 restaurants and bars that allow dogs inside or on the patio, which is the perfect way to appreciate the beautiful San Francisco weather. There are over 100 dog-friendly hotels and short-term rentals in San Francisco, so there are dog-friendly accommodations for every budget. Your dog can tag along for some conventional fun, like a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge or an art gallery, or some less conventional fun, like a visit to a bookstore or a gym that offers supervised pup play while you work out.

German Shepherd at Baker Beach, San Francisco, CA
Image Credit: Mick Gast, Shutterstock

Interesting Facts

  • In 2016, there were around 115,000 people under the age of 18 living in San Francisco, but there were between 125,000-150,000 dogs.
  • BADRAP, the non-profit organization focusing on educating the public about pit bulls and other bully breed dogs and ensuring these dogs go into safe, healthy homes, was founded in San Francisco. BADRAP has even been chosen as the top non-profit when it comes to supporting animal welfare.
  • The San Francisco Zoo is home to a pack of Mexican Gray Wolves, which are the smallest wolf subspecies currently alive on the planet. They are only about half the size of the North American Gray Wolf.
  • In the 1860s, two stray dogs who were lovingly dubbed Bummer and Lazarus by the locals, were deemed legally able to roam freely. They were known in the area for being ratters and thieves but were well-loved and there is currently a plaque in their honor in the city.
  • While it’s not known for sure why the San Francisco neighborhood “Dogpatch” was named such, one explanation for the name is that packs of stray dogs used to roam the area, scavenging for meat thrown out from butchers in the area.
  • In 2011, the mayor of San Francisco declared May 10th “Muttville Senior Dog Rescue Day” in honor of the senior dog rescue, Muttville, in the area.

Leash Laws & Licensing

San Francisco requires dogs to be kept on a leash anytime they are off their private property. They have to be on a leash that is 8 feet long or less and they have to be under the control and the supervision of the handler at all times. This even extends to not leaving your dog unattended when they are in a designated off-leash area.

All dogs over the age of 4 months are required to be registered with the city of San Francisco. Under this mandate, dogs can’t go on a walk outside of private property until they are registered with the city. Licenses are good for 1, 3, or 5 years, and they must be renewed 30 days or more before they expire. This ensures your dog isn’t unregistered at any point.

Labradoodle dog and woman outside at the park
Image Credit: Lopolo, Shutterstock

Living in San Francisco with a Dog

Finding doggy daycares and dog walkers in San Francisco is extremely easy because these businesses are everywhere. With such an urban area, it’s important for dogs to get enough activity, and that often means extra help when you’re at work during the day. Veterinary care is easy to find as well, and on top of there being multiple regular vet clinics in the city, there are also emergency and ICU vet clinics and specialty vets that provide multiple surgical and medical services your regular vet usually won’t be able to provide.

A major consideration of living in San Francisco with a dog, especially if you are moving to San Francisco with your dog, is how many dogs and strangers you will encounter on a daily basis. It’s important for your dog to be comfortable in public spaces and well-behaved enough to go for walks in areas that may be crowded. It’s also important to make sure you can keep your dog under your control to keep them out of the road and away from other hazards.

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Credit: Paper Cat, Shutterstock

Average Cost of Ownership

San Francisco has a very high cost of living, which means that routine veterinary care and items like food and medications may run higher than in other areas. It’s estimated that owning a dog in San Francisco can cost you up to $10,000 annually, but this cost includes “extras” like doggy daycare and specialty care. Emergency care can easily cost thousands of dollars, though, so it’s a good idea to have a fund ready just in case.

Finding a dog-friendly place to live in San Francisco may be difficult, although it is getting easier as time goes on. The cost of housing in San Francisco is sky-high, so be prepared to spend a pretty penny putting down a pet deposit or paying pet rent every month for each of your pets. To find affordable, dog-friendly housing, you may have to look outside of the city itself and plan to commute for work.


Shelters & Rescue Centers

Adopting a rescue or shelter dog in San Francisco can be more difficult than it sounds. All rescues and shelters require an application to adopt a dog, but they tend to be very selective as to who they will adopt dogs out to. Many have specific requirements like no young children, previous dog-owning experience, and some even require a fenced yard or off-leash dog area nearby. This high selectivity pushes many people in San Francisco who are looking for dogs into purchasing dogs from breeders. There is no shortage of dogs needing homes in and around San Francisco, though, so if a rescue dog is your dream pup, then you may just have to keep at it until you find the perfect dog that you can get approved for. There is good news, though! The San Francisco SPCA offers a new puppy class that helps people prepare for bringing home a dog, whether it’s for the first time or not.

san fran
Credit: Paper Cat, Shutterstock

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San Francisco is a unique city, famous for the things that make it different than everywhere else. As more and more people get dogs and have pets instead of kids, San Francisco becomes more dog-friendly. Finding activities, eateries, and dog-friendly businesses in San Francisco should be a breeze, and there’s enough to keep you and your dog busy for years!

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Featured Image: USA-Reiseblogger, Pixabay