Are Dogs Allowed in the Zoo?

Dogs and other pets are not allowed in nearly every zoo in the United States. There is one notable exception, and we’ll get to that one shortly.

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Does This Include Drive-Thru Events? Can My Dog Come Along If He Stays in My Car?

You should check with individual zoos, but generally, the no-dogs-allowed rule likely applies everywhere. For example, Massachusett’s Southwick Zoo explicitly prohibits pets in vehicles at their drive-thru ZooFari Events. No pets in the park, means no pets, period.

What About Service Dogs? Are They Allowed at Zoos?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, working service dogs and miniature horses are permitted. Zoos have general safety rules and policies that guests must adhere to when bringing a service dog. Always check with the individual zoo before your visit if you plan to bring a service animal.

Why Can’t I Bring My Pet Dog to the Zoo?

We could explain, but we feel the folks at the San Diego Zoo say it best. Their policy speaks to the concerns of most zoo facilities.

“You can only bring your pet into the [San Diego] Zoo if it’s a working service animal. Emotional support, comfort animals, or service animals still in training are not allowed. There are two reasons for this. Both the Zoo and Safari Park are considered quarantined facilities because they are home to many rare and endangered species. And also the zoo is full of wild animals which may by scent, sound, or sight trigger aggressive or erratic behavior in pets.”

San Diego Zoo’s dog policy

Are There Situations Where a Person With a Service Dog Might Be Asked to Leave?

There can be, but it depends on the individual zoo. For example, at the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo, a guest with a service dog may be asked to leave if their dog creates a disruption to the facility’s operation.

What Behaviors Might Result in Being Asked to Leave?

Again, this depends on the facility. Here are service dog behaviors that may result in eviction from the Columbus Zoo:

  • Barking, growling, vicious or aggressive behaviors toward other people or animals
  • Inability to be controlled by leash, harness, tethered line, or barring that, by voice commands or signals
  • Not being housebroken

Are There Any U.S. Zoos That Permit Pet Dogs?

As of this writing, we’re only aware of one–Norristown, Pennsylvania’s Elmwood Park Zoo. In February of 2021, this small, local zoo became the first in America to open its doors to pet dogs on select days and for special events.

Has the Elmwood Park Zoo Established Rules and Regulations Around Bringing Dogs?

They have. During the spring and summer, the Zoo holds select “Dog Days” on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. During the fall and winter, the hours change from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

The Zoo also holds special “Yappy Hours” from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM at its Zoo Brew Beer Garden. Yappy Hours are similar to human-type Happy Hours but with added drinks and special foods that dogs will enjoy.

In addition, the following basic rules apply:

  • Only one dog per owner/handler at a time
  • Individual dogs must be registered to the owner/handler walking them in the zoo
  • Dogs must be evaluated by a licensed veterinarian at least once a year
  • Dogs must receive an annual heartworm test and receive monthly heartworm prevention
  • Proof of Rabies, Canine Distemper Virus and Canine Parvovirus vaccination is required
  • Dogs must have a well-fitting collar or harness with a Rabies vaccination tag and a tag with the owner’s contact information. It must be worn at all times.
  • Retractable leashes are prohibited.

Are There Any Types of Dogs NOT Allowed at the Elmwood Park Zoo?

Puppies under four months are not allowed, nor are dogs that are sick or with active injuries. Additionally, female dogs in heat are not allowed.

Does the Elmwood Park Zoo Require a Dog Application?

It does. You can click here for the application and for more information about Dog Days and Yappy Hours at the Elwood Park Zoo.

Are There Any Zoos Outside the United States that Welcome Pet Dogs?

Germany has a number of dog-friendly zoos and wildlife parks, including ZOOM Erlebniswelt, which is located on 77 acres in Gelsenkirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia.

Visitors will find dog-friendly water bowls along the main pathways of the park and plenty of trash cans where you can dispose of doggy doo. The park also includes a number of dog-friendly restaurants.

The zoo requires that individual visitors do not bring more than one dog at any given time and that if they are visiting in a group, there be no more than three dogs in said group.

Tips For When Going to the Zoo With A Dog

Whether visiting the Elmwood Park Zoo with your pet or having your service dog accompany you at any other zoo that permits service animals, there are a few good basic practices to follow:

  • Contact the zoo in advance to find out their rules and protocols for dogs
  • Make sure your dog is under your control at all times
  • If there are areas where even service animals are not allowed, respect the zoo rules
  • If zoo animals become agitated in the presence of your dog, move along quickly
  • Make sure your dog has been fed and provided water before your visit
  • If your dog relieves himself, be sure to clean up after him
  • Do not leave your dog in your vehicle while you visit the zoo

Final Thoughts

So are dogs allowed in the zoo? The short answer is no. As much as we love our four-legged companions, with the exception of bonafide service dogs, there are simply some places when it is best they are left home.

There are good reasons why zoo officials disallow dogs in their facilities. Maintaining the good health of zoo residents is of the utmost importance and the risk of disease transmission or a dog getting loose and interacting with them is one not worth taking. In addition, the sight and smells of unfamiliar animals can be extremely unsettling for both zoo residents and our dogs. Why subject either of them to that?

Most dog lovers are overall animal lovers, so it’s only natural to want to visit nearby zoos or one when traveling. When you do, just be sure to leave your dog home or in the care of someone responsible.