ST. PETERSBURG â€” Pigs, dogs, snakes and parrots â€” come one, come all. St. Petersburg is working to become even more pet-friendly.
Officials and several animal advocacy groups are looking at how the city stacks up when it comes to accommodating pets, from conditions at local shelters, to amenities in parks, to how readily pets are welcomed in apartment buildings and condos.
“Weâ€™re still finishing the analysis,” said Martha Boden, CEO of SPCA Tampa Bay. “But the next step is to talk about prioritizing our efforts, talk about what do we want to do next.”
The effort came about after Boden discovered Better Cities for Pets, a national campaign that outlines 12 traits of pet-friendly cities. She reached out Mayor Rick Kriseman about joining, and he was “very open to the idea,” she said.
Boden then worked with Susan Ajoc, the cityâ€™s Community Services Director, to spread the word. And in March, seven interested organizations, including Pinellas County Animal Services and PetPal Animal Shelter, met for the first time, Boden said.
The group is aware St. Pete is already pet-friendly. Thatâ€™s why they decided to first figure out what already exists as far as pet-friendly amenities go. The city created a map thatâ€™s still being updated with the areaâ€™s veterinarians, pet-friendly hotels and fire stations that have oxygen support for pets.
After examining the map, the organizations will look at the campaignâ€™s 12 traits and pick a few to start working on.
Kriseman announced in June that the city would participate in the campaign, which was started by Mars Petcare, a pet food manufacturer and animal care provider.
Boden said the St. Petersburg effort will require the local organizing group to crank out simple tasks as well as tackle larger, more complex projects.
The simple tasks include educating people on pet behavior by better promoting existing programs like pet obedience classes and how to prepare for your first pet classes. St. Petersburg could do this by giving out pamphlets and sharing links, Boden said.
One of the 12 traits is a desire among restaurants, hotels and other businesses to become more pet-friendly. Boden said if organizations like hers join with local businesses to provide training for their employees, they might be more willing to join the effort.
Some of the more complex tasks include trying to convince developers to build pet amenities and creating a pet-friendly grading system for businesses. Similar to how businesses can become bike-friendly, Boden envisions a pet-friendly title.
One of the campaignâ€™s points is to ensure “pet-friendly housing options exist for all families.”
Skyline Fifth Luxury Apartments at 441 33rd St. N is working toward that goal. The building already has a dog park and a dog spa, but it will build a second dog park by March because of the pet-friendly campaign, said property manager Nicole Griffith.
However, Skyline Fifth wonâ€™t be able to fully comply with another of the campaignâ€™s priorities: housing without breed or weight restrictions.
While the building is considering removing its weight check, which limits petâ€™s weights to 75 pounds, Griffith said it will never remove its breed restraint. The rule is no “aggressive” breeds including pit bulls and Akitas.
“We would never do that for the safety of the residents themselves,” Griffith said.
The city is trying to find a balance between encouraging people to adopt to reduce pet homelessness and respecting people who donâ€™t like being near animals, Ajoc said. The organizing group is aware some people might be allergic, for instance, she said.
“The incentive of the program is not to impose pets on everyone, but have people more comfortable to adopt a pet,” Ajoc said.
The campaignâ€™s goal is to make sure people know they have the option to own a pet. Ajoc compared it to smoking and non-smoking rooms in hotels. There could be pet rooms and non-pet rooms, too.
She said the initiative focuses primarily on cats and dogs because those are the “more traditional” pets. But they are keeping in mind that some people have other pets, like birds, reptiles and even farm animals.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do because most people bring their pets with them out,” Ajoc said. “So why not provide those amenities so everybody can be happy and healthy?”
Contact Jimena Tavel at [emailÂ protected] Follow @taveljimena.