Nashville Is Going to the Dogs in a Good Way — And Your City Can Too!
Nashville: it's home to country music and thousands of new residents.
Each year, more and more Americans are moving to the Tennessee city, and many are bringing pets with them. As the city grows and shifts to make way for this new influx, Mars Petcare, headquartered in nearby Franklin, Tennessee, is focused on the animal citizens coming in; they want to make Nashville a more welcoming place for pets. But they don't want to stop there.
In 2017, Mars Petcare created the Better Cities for Pets program as a way to help cities all across North America become more pet-friendly. The program, designed alongside city planning experts and local government officials, consists of a playbook, backed by free resources, detailing how to make a city more pet-friendly by working on 12 key focus areas. These areas range from developing community cat programs that humanely address feline overpopulation to offering workplaces that understand and support the benefits of having pets at work. Cities that follow the playbook and show dedication to making their areas more welcoming to animals, receive a Better Cities for Pets certification.
According to the Better Cities for Pets annual report for 2019, 31 cities currently have a Better Cities for Pets certification, earning the award for putting "pet-friendly programs and policies in place" and for "working to make people and pets welcome." For this annual report, Mars Petcare looked at the initiatives these cities put in place and surveyed the cities' citizens to figure out the clear benefits a city gains from being pet-friendly and how to offer the best roadmap for other cities to do the same.
To show what success can look, Mars Petcare is using their backyard as a testing ground for what harmony between pets and humans could look like. The Better Cities for Pets annual report revealed several clear pet trends that pet owners want and are starting to expect from their cities.
Here is some of what the report found and how Nashville, a certified Better Cities for Pets city, is making these trends a reality.
Bringing Zen to Shelters
Based on its national survey, the report found the 58% of respondents adopted their pets from a local shelter. As more prospective pet parents look to adoption for a furry friend, they expect more from the shelters and rescues that care for these animals ahead of adoption. Based on the survey, pet lovers want shelters that encourage open play and enrichment, offer exciting volunteer opportunities and have events that encourage adoption.
At Nashville Humane Association, these wants are already in place. Animal residents are treated to daily enrichment opportunities like enticing Easter eggs full of treats to puzzle pussycats and peanut-butter covered frisbees for the pups. The shelter has a colorful, inviting environment, including a tower tree structure for kitties to climb on, that encourages interaction with the animals. Trial sleepovers can be easily arranged with an adoptable animal or prospective pet parents can take a dog on a date.
Reclaiming Public Space
As cities continue to grow, it's important that public outdoor space for animals, specifically dogs, isn't forgotten in the bustle to build. This doesn't always mean a large dog run, small changes can be made to make a simple stretch of sidewalk a little more pet-friendly.
In Nashville, and the neighboring town of Franklin — another certified Better Cities for Pets city —more waste stations, stocked with free poop bags, have been added along the street — a great way to make pet owners feel supported and to keep the sidewalks clean. Working with Civic Design Center, a nonprofit dedicated to creating functional cities for all, Mars Petcare is finding new ways to make cities non-green spaces pet-friendly. Nashville just rolled out its first "Barklet," a pet-friendly seating area, which includes leash connections, shade and water bowls, that can be installed in any regular street parking space.
Open for Business
Understandably, people want to bring their pets everywhere, so they want businesses that can make that possible.
Franklin has taken the guesswork out of where pets are allowed by providing businesses with one of three signs that clearly tell pet owners what the rules are. A quick glance at most Franklin storefronts let pet owners know if their pets are allowed in, allowed in but only in outdoor areas, or politely prohibited from entering.
Pets as a Work Perk
The Better Cities for Pets annual report shows people want to bring their dogs to work and/or be around dogs while they are working. Based on the report's survey, 87% of respondents think dog-friendly work policies attract talent and 59% say that they would choose a pet-friendly office over one that's not when looking for a new job.
Not surprisingly, Mars Petcare is all about pet perks. Their Franklin office allows dogs to come in every day and includes an on-site dog run, wifi-enabled outdoor areas where people can work with their pups, a dog daycare where canine can play with other staff dogs and plenty of pet-friendly events. Mars Petcare even employs a "Bark Boss," whose job it is to make sure the doggy daycare and the office's other pet activities run smoothly. She is assisted by one of her own dogs, Norman, who, as you can tell by the photo below, takes his job very seriously.
Along with these trends, the Better Cities for Pets annual report also revealed a general shift in attitude in what people expect from their cities. People want to know that where they live supports pets, from their shelters to their sidewalks.
The Better Cities for Pets program shows cities how they can answer this call from their residents by focusing on improvements that will not only benefit animals but all the people that call the place home as well.
To learn more about Better Cities for Pets and how you can help your city get certified, visit the program's website.