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St. Petersburg joins Better Cities for Pets national initiative

Missy Hurley

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Courtesy of City of St. Pete Flickr.

St. Petersburg is participating in Mars Petcare’s Better Cities for Pets movement to make St. Petersburg an even happier, healthier and more welcoming place for pets. The initiative includes 12 traits of a pet-friendly city, ranging from collaboration to reduce pet homelessness to restaurants and businesses that are welcoming.

The City has developed a program called St. Pete Paws to collaborate with organizations that support pets and their owners to make St. Petersburg a city where pets are welcome, and owners are caring, nurturing guardians who are working together to provide safe and secure environments.

“The Better Cities for Pets movement aligns closely with our focus on being a city of opportunity for all – which includes our pets,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “We used the Better Cities for Pets criteria to take a look at the resources available to pets and their owners, and we found that we’re already an incredibly supportive community for pets, but we’re aiming to do even more.”

City officials and staff are working closely with Mars Petcare, BluePearl Veterinary Partners, Pinellas County Veterinary Medical Association and animal welfare agencies like SPCA Tampa Bay, PetPal Animal Shelter, Friends of Strays and Pinellas County Animal Services to assess St. Petersburg’s current resources for pets, and identify opportunities to make it an even better place for them.

St. Petersburg already has plentiful pet-friendly amenities, from pet-friendly hotels and restaurants to kennels, doggie daycares and fire stations outfitted with special airway equipment for pets.

The city plans to develop a pet-friendly business program to encourage more businesses to welcome pets. These pet-friendly businesses make it easier for pets and their owners to share experiences, and it can keep pets healthier by making pets less likely to be left in a car when an owner needs to make a stop. This reduces the risk of heatstroke.

“Pets rely on us to keep them healthy, and this initiative makes pet health and happiness a shared responsibility for our community,” said Dr. Jimmy Barr, Chief Medical Officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, part of the Mars Petcare company. “Even seemingly small changes like adding more water bowls and pet relief areas can have a big impact on a pet’s health.”

St. Petersburg is already seeing progress on the Better Cities for Pets criteria that focuses on shelters. Several of Pinellas County’s animal welfare agencies have been collaborating on countywide initiatives, and it’s positively impacting pets. Pinellas County’s live release rate – measured by adoptions, transfers and other factors – reached a six-year high at 73 percent in 2017. In addition, trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) programs that started in 2014 are keeping community cats healthier and limiting the number of litters born into community cat colonies.

“A community that’s welcoming and supportive of pets leads to fewer pets being surrendered to local shelters,” said Martha Boden, CEO of SPCA Tampa Bay. “This initiative will lead to more pets living in healthy, happy homes.”

Over the coming months, the local Better Cities for Pets collaborators will work together to identify additional areas of focus for pet-friendliness. Focus areas may include increased support of pets in public and commercial spaces through a pet-friendly business program, more pet-friendly housing options and better access to reliable information on pet behavior and health.

For more information on pet-friendly cities, click here.

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