ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Petersburg is taking the lead in becoming a pet-friendly city.  

This week, the city was recognized as the #1 large pet-friendly city in the entire country by the Mars Corporation, and it launched St. Pete PAWS, a program for businesses to become pet-friendly certified.

Pinellas Ale Works, or PAW, is one of the first businesses to apply.  The owner of the brewery, Dennis Decker, said he’s excited to be in a city embracing its pets. “I know there’s a lot of things that have to be done to run a city, and I think it’s cool that they’re embracing this,” said Decker.  

Mayor Rick Kriseman recently launched the Mayor’s Pet Friendly Business program, which requires businesses to meet certain guidelines in order to become certified.  Then, participating businesses will receive recognition on a pet-friendly map, a window decal, sharable social media content, and resources for hosting pets.  

“Whether you’re a pet lover, or you’re not, things like this do improve quality of life.  It does improve economic development.  It does improve the image that the city has,” said Mayor Kriseman.

Other business owners in St. Pete support the program, too.  Lyn Vanvoorst owns The Clay Center of St. Petersburg on 1st Avenue South.  She says she brings her own dog, Peyton, to the studio every day, and allows customers to bring their pets, too.  

“They add another dimension to the studio.  People absolutely love Peyton.  They come in, and they pet her.   Of all the years I’ve been in business, six and a half years, I think I’ve had maybe one person that did not like to have the dog looking at her,” said Vanvoorst.

Amanda Hill owns Wild Roots just down the street.  She also allows customers to bring their furry friends and says it’s great way to attract new business.  “What’s not to love about getting to see cute dogs every day?  It definitely brightens my day and it makes the customers happy,” said Hill.

Mayor Kriseman said in addition to the pet-friendly business certification program, the city is also working with local property managers and hotels to make them more accepting of pets, as well as educating people on responsible pet ownership and making sure parks and outdoor areas are suitable for pets.