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When you think of Houston, pets might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but as Houston residents can tell you, this city has plenty of fun to offer your pets. A dog park in Houston is usually just a stone's throw away, and pet events in Houston are plentiful. Whether you're looking for a place to let Fido run off leash, a special spa day to pamper your kitty or an excuse to dress your pets up in funny costumes, Houston has you covered.
Houston Pet Laws
Before heading out to a dog park in Houston, be sure you're compliant with local pet license laws. The City of Houston requires all dogs and cats within the city limits who are at least 4 months of age to have a license issued from the city, which serves as proof of rabies vaccination. If you're visiting with your pets from out of town, be sure to bring along their locally obtained license and proof of vaccination in case you need it.
A Houston license needs to be renewed annually along with your pet's vaccination. If you're a senior or you're licensing a service dog, the licensing fees are significantly reduced or in some cases waived, says the City of Houston BARC Animal Shelter. Houston also has strict leash laws that require your pet to be under your control at all times, whether on a leash, in a carrier, behind a fence or in an enclosure.
Looking for a Dog Park in Houston?
One place your pup can happily and legally run off leash is in an enclosed dog park, and Houston boasts no fewer than 11, says Visit Houston. One of those parks spread throughout the city is sure to please both you and your dog, whether you like to hike and explore, splash and swim, lounge in the sunshine or run and play. Whichever park you choose, be sure to read the posted rules and practice dog park etiquette. Keep your pooch on a leash, in a carrier or in your arms outside of the designated off-leash areas. The Houston Parks and Recreation Department also requests that you keep your dog away from children's play areas and designated sports playing fields at all times. Here are a few of Houston's top dog parks, according to Houston Press:
- Millie Bush Bark Park: This was voted the top dog park in Houston thanks to safety features like double-gated fencing and separate areas for large and small dogs. The park also offers ponds for swimming, dog showers and water fountains for two-legged and four-legged guests, along with plenty of shaded areas and a walking path.
- Discovery Green Kinder Large Dog Run and Harriet and Joe Foster Small Dog Run: While this park includes most of the same dog-friendly amenities as the Millie Bush Bark Park, the dog runs are inside a much larger park that includes plenty of fun activities for humans to enjoy with their leashed pets, including open-air performances, ice skating and food vendors.
- Congressman Bill Archer Bark Park: This park offers more than 20 acres of recreation for your dog. In addition to separate areas for large and small pups, your dog can look forward to a large pond, agility equipment, walking trails and plenty of green shaded areas to play or take a break.
Dog-Friendly Beaches Near Houston
While you'll have to venture outside the city limits to find beaches that welcome dogs, you won't need to travel far. The nearby island city of Galveston offers 32 miles of Gulf Coast beaches, all of which welcome pets on leashes, says Go Pet Friendly. Some beaches do restrict dogs from certain spots like swimming areas or visitor centers, so be prepared to read the posted rules and heed any "No Dogs Allowed" signs you may run across.
Dining Out With Your Pet
In 2011, Houston passed the "Paws on Patios" ordinance, making it possible for bars and restaurants to obtain permits allowing dogs in outdoor dining areas, says Houston Press. Since then, you'll find no shortage of places to dine out with your dog. Whether you're looking to enjoy a cocktail, split a puppuccino or eat dinner with a fur friend in tow, you'll find a suitable venue. Dog Friendly Houston lists over four dozen area establishments that welcome your pup's paws on their patios.
Pet Events in Houston
You can also find plenty of fun pet events in Houston to enjoy with your dog or cat, many of which raise money to help care for homeless pets.
- The Houston Pet Expo is an annual showcase of pet-related products, services and activities. In addition to touring the exhibits and enjoying live entertainment, you and your pet can attend obedience demonstrations, get a free nail trim or a discounted vaccination and enter a pet costume contest, among other fun activities.
- A Life to Live, a pet rescue located in nearby Baytown, Texas, hosts the annual Barktoberfest event every October. Bring your dog along to meet and greet adoptable pets, enter a dog-friendly 5K run and enjoy festivities that include contests, food trucks and live entertainment — all while raising awareness and money for a good cause.
- The Houston SPCA hosts the annual iWalk for Animals event at Houston's Memorial Park. Walk your dog along with hundreds of other pooches and their pet parents to help support the organization. If you'd rather cool your paws, there are plenty of other fun activities to choose from, including live music, demonstrations, contests, prizes and plenty of food for you and your pup to enjoy.
- Lest your kitty feel left out, you can sign her up for the Houston Cat Club's Charity Cat Show. The annual show has separate categories for pedigreed cats and household pets, so your rambunctious tabby won't be competing against veteran show cats. This event raises money for local pet charities and promises a lot of fun for you and your well-socialized cat.
While most of Houston's events and venues are geared primarily toward dogs, if your cat enjoys going out on a leash, she's welcome at most places that allow leashed dogs. With that said, a spa day or a play date at one of the Houston-area luxury pet resorts, such as Fat Cat Flats or Pet Paradise, might be more your kitty's speed. And if you enjoy spending time with cats in general or are considering adopting one, be sure to pay a visit to the kitties at El Gato Coffee House, Houston's first cat cafe, where you can not only sip coffee while petting adoptable kitties but also sign up for yoga with cats.
Whether you're a Houston-area resident or you and your pets are just passing through, one thing is certain: Your pets won't get bored in this pet-loving city with a heart as big as Texas.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.