Service dogs are at-home heroes to thousands of Americans across our country. Whether they’re acting as a guide dog for the visually impaired, springing to action as a seizure response dog, acting as a constant physical presence, or trained for instances of trauma for a wounded veteran, service dogs are a vital aid to individuals with diagnosed medical needs. Though service dogs are critical for the people who need them, they are often not covered by health insurance; however, policyholders may be able to use HSA or FSA funds to help with costs. Assurance has the offerings and client services that can help you find insurance coverage that include HSA or FSA components.
For this study, we determined which cities would be the best for one to be in if you have a service dog. We found the top cities by using ranking factors like the number of employed veterinarians, the number of service dog organizations, and the number of individuals with health concerns, to name a few. It’s a ruff job, but someone has to do it.
- Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the best city for a service dog. Along with many service dog organizations to work for, Albuquerque has an abundance of individuals in need who would benefit from service dog help and many veterinary services to ensure they have access to the best healthcare.
- Cities with high walkability scores are great environments for seeing eye dogs and the individuals they support. San Francisco, New York City, and Boston all have walkability scores over 80, meaning it’s easy to get to where you’re going safely on foot.
- If you believe your companion has what it takes to become a service dog, consider moving to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bridgeport has 12 service dog training academies per 100,000 residents, more than any other city in our study.
- Although service dogs are welcome in any rental property, it helps if the landlord is predisposed to accepting animals. Durham, North Carolina, is the best city for a service dog to find its optimal living. Durham has the most animal friendly rentals on average at nearly 82 rentals per 100,000 residents.
- Provo, Utah, is the worst city to be a service dog and lacks in nearly every category. Part of the reason could be that Provo has one of the smallest populations in our study, meaning that there are not as many people who require assistance from a service animal.
The 15 Best Cities for Service Dogs
According to the ADA, a service animal is defined as “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability,” where the task(s) relate directly to the disability. Service dogs go through intense training regimens in specialized facilities to ensure that they can provide their companions with the care and assistance they need. When picking the best places to be a service dog, we looked at factors that affect the daily job responsibilities of these trusted supporters. Determining the ranking factors came down to three key components: job opportunity, accessibility to resources and amenities, and performance affecting factors.
For job opportunities, these animals must be in the right places where they are most needed. Factors that contribute to accessibility to resources are those like the number of veterinary care or service dog training centers around. It’s important to make sure service animals are always at their peak performance.
Regarding access to amenities, we included pet-friendly breweries and restaurants as factors. Although service dogs are not considered pets because they are working animals, meaning they are allowed in any establishment per ADA regulations, pet-friendly establishments already come prepared with water bowls to hydrate and the proper outdoor lavatories for these loyal companions. Service dogs deserve to enjoy downtime with their humans, too!
And finally, while these canines are on the clock, the surrounding environment must support their owner’s disabilities. Walkable roads, trails, and neighborhoods, for example, are key to supporting the quality of life of their owners.
Keeping all these factors in mind, we found that Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the best city to be a service dog. Albuquerque has an abundance of individuals in need who could benefit from the help of a hard-working service dog and many pet friendly amenities and veterinary services to ensure that service dogs receive quality care.
On the other hand, Provo, Utah, is the worst city to be a service dog as it lacks in nearly every category. Part of the reason could be that Provo has one of the smallest populations in our study, meaning that there are not as many people who require assistance from a service animal, and so also fewer training facilities and pet-friendly amenities to accommodate them.
The Best Cities to Be a Service Dog by Category
There’s a demand for service dogs everywhere in the United States, but some cities have more people in need than others. In the South, cities like Augusta, Georgia, and Daytona, Florida, are home to many people with hearing difficulties that could benefit from a service dog’s assistance. In the Northwest, Spokane, Washington, has many individuals with cognitive difficulties who could also use a helping hand.
Under the guidelines of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing providers must “allow a reasonable accommodation involving an assistance animal.” Unfortunately, not all apartments and rental properties feature additional animal friendly amenities, such as easy access to relief facilities or space to run and exercise.
Durham, North Carolina, is the best place for someone with a service dog to find a new home. Although service dogs are welcome in any rental property, it helps if the landlord is predisposed to accepting animals. Durham has nearly 82 pet friendly rentals per 100,000 residents, meaning these apartments and rentals will likely be equipped with clean-up stations and other resources to ensure your helpful companion is comfortable. On the flip side, if you go a little further up north to Poughkeepsie, New York, you might be hard-pressed to find any animal friendly housing, as they only have roughly two pet- friendly rentals per 100,000 residents.
Places with high walkability scores are great environments for seeing eye dogs and the individuals they support. Cities like San Francisco, New York City, and Boston all have walkability scores over 80, meaning it’s easy to get to where you’re going and perform daily tasks on foot.
Service dogs play a vital role in their owners’ lives, so they must have access to the care and amenities they need to thrive daily. If you’re a service dog owner looking for a place that’s more accepting of your service animal who goes above and beyond the call of duty, we hope there’s a city in our shortlist that’s right for you.
While health insurance typically does not cover service dogs, it can help cover the other costs associated with the conditions that made a service animal necessary, such as medication, appointments with a general practitioner as well as specialists, and testing. At Assurance, you can compare health insurance policies and prices to find the plan right for your budget and coverage needs.
Data and Methodology
Interested in diving deeper into the numbers for all the cities, or wanting to see how your city stacks up if it’s not listed within the above map?
We’ve compiled our full data study for all 100 U.S. cities analyzed into the interactive data table below. Search for the city you call home or click on the heading of each column to sort by that category.
To find the top cities for service dogs, we started with a list of the 100 most populated cities in the U.S. and ranked them 1 to 100 based on relevant factors. We broke those factors down into three categories: job opportunity, accessibility, and performance affecting. We then assigned weights to each factor depending on how important it would be to a service dog or someone with a service dog. Based on those weights, each city we analyzed was given a score out of 100.
|Ranking Factor||Ranking Factor Category||Weight||Source|
|No. of Individuals with Hearing Difficulty||Job Opportunity Factor||2||Census|
|No. of Individuals with Vision Difficulty||Job Opportunity Factor||1.5||Census|
|No. of Individuals with Cognitive Difficulty||Job Opportunity Factor||2||Census|
|No. of Individuals with Ambulatory Difficulty||Job Opportunity Factor||2||Census|
|No. of Individuals with Self-Care Difficulty||Job Opportunity Factor||1.25||Census|
|No. of Individuals with Independent Living Difficulty||Job Opportunity Factor||2||Census|
|No. of Veterans||Job Opportunity Factor||1.25||U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs|
|No. of Service Dog Training||Accessibility Factor||1||YellowPages|
|No. of Service Dog Organizations||Accessibility Factor||1.25||YellowPages|
|No. of Employed Veterinarians||Accessibility Factor||1||BLS|
|No. of pet friendly Rentals||Accessibility Factor||0.25||Rent.com|
|No. of pet friendly Restaurants||Accessibility Factor||0.25||Yelp|
|No. of pet friendly Breweries||Accessibility Factor||0.25||Yelp|
|Noise Pollution||Performance Affecting Factor||2||ArcGIS|
|Walkability||Performance Affecting Factor||2||Walk Score|