There are only four communities in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming that are certified pet friendly. These are Lake Stevens, Wash., Gresham and Sutherlin, Ore., and Jackson, Wyo. Idaho and Montana? none.
The good folks at Mars Pet Care are once again trying to help communities become pet friendly certified through their Better Cities For Pets program (bettercitiesforpets.com).
Before I dive deeper into this, let me say up front that the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine is in the process of building a relationship with Mars. That said, they don’t know me and they don’t know I’m writing this column.
That brings us to my first recommendation. If an entity is going to certify cities as pet friendly, they should also do the same for colleges and universities. Every developer knows that if one is building student apartments nowadays, they better have some provisions for renters to keep pets.
The problem is, developers haven’t taken the next steps. For example, where are the designated pet waste elimination areas and disposal receptacles? Trust me, I live near perhaps the largest group of primarily student apartments in Moscow that extend along West A Street. I see many young people walking dogs near there and very few appear to have bags with them to pick up their pet’s solid waste.
There are postage stamp pieces of both public and private property nearby and I’d hate to go look. Most of the dog walkers migrate to these pieces of grass. It’s likely a mess because of a few who don’t clean up after their pets.
Back to Mars. I’ve written about their program before. I was excited to see the latest push to get more cities certified. At the same time, I was quite disappointed to see only four cities so designated in the five-state area.
The Mars program is built upon four pillars: shelters; home; parks and businesses. Within each pillar are three guidelines, thus 12 guidelines overall. Certainly, either Moscow or Pullman could achieve certification.
Pullman might be better positioned, given it has a veterinary college and a newer shelter. But Moscow could be competitive too, given its miles of walking trails both in the city and the county.
While it’s too much to detail here, the certification document one would submit on behalf of the city is some 26 pages of simple information and questions, so no big deal there. The website even gives you a copy of the evaluation form to work from while writing the application.
Are there no prospective Eagle Scouts willing to take this on and work with their city? Or how about a student majoring in, say, public administration who needs an internship? An architecture or urban geography class project? Even if our cities were turned down for certification, would that not be the best information for moving forward and getting better?
I strongly suggest that cities and developers are missing an opportunity to make these communities even better than they already are.
So right now, Mars doesn’t recognize universities. Again, I suggest there is opportunity there. How about a proposal to be the first university so certified and therefore become the template for others in the future?
It is rightfully said that companion animals in many parts of the world are the children of the 21st century. Without a doubt. Instead of gouging renters with exorbitant damage deposits, attract them with not just pet-friendly, but pet-ideal amenities that cost more.
Imagine entering the university cities and seeing “Pet Friendly Certified,” on the welcome signs.
Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service.