dog friendly zoo
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
May 9, 2024 ·  4 min read

This Zoo Becomes First Zoo In America To Go ‘Dog Friendly’

Love the zoo but hate leaving your precious pooch at home? Then this is the zoo for you. After a year of planning, Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, Pennsylvania, is the first dog-friendly zoo in America. (1)

The First Dog-Friendly Zoo in America

Typically, people enjoy visiting the zoo because they love animals. Often, people who love animals also own pets themselves – in particular, dogs. The people in charge at Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, Pennsylvania, recognized this, so they set out to turn themselves into a dog-friendly zoo. They are the first zoo in America to offer such accommodations. (1)

At first thought, this probably seems pretty simple to do. Just allow people to bring their pets in and have strict rules about leashes, right?

Not exactly. The zoo spent a full year going over safety considerations, planning, and redesigning the zoo so that the puppies and their people can have an enjoyable experience. At the same time, the zoo animals will also be kept safe. (1)

How To Bring Your Dog to Elmwood Park Zoo

Just because Elmwood Park is a dog-friendly zoo doesn’t mean you can just show up with your dog any time you want to. Dog admission will only be available on certain dates and for specific special events. (1)

The zoo’s Dog Days are select Wednesdays and Fridays from 1-4 pm in March and 1-5 pm in April. The last admission is an hour before close. (1)

They also have what’s called Yappy Hours. On select Thursday nights, pet owners and their fur babies can come to the zoo after hours from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, with the last admission at 6:30. Yappy Hours also includes drink and food specials at the Zoo Brew Beer Garden for humans and dogs. (1)

To bring your dog to the zoo, you must fill out this form and attach a copy of your most recent visit to the vet, proof of vaccinations, and heartworm test.

Trial Run

To see how bringing dogs into the zoo would go, the zoo did a test run with the staff. All staff with a dog brought their pet to get up close and personal with the other animals that the employees interact with every day. (2)

“Canines of all shapes and sizes got an up-close view of the zoo’s giraffes, zebras, jaguars, and more,” zoo organizers said. “The zoo’s animals showed a bit of interest, and overall it was a harmonious meeting.” (2)

Read: Woman Shares Photos of Amazingly Large and Majestic Maine Coon Cat

Dog-Friendly Zoo Rules

There is a list of rules for dogs and their owners to follow to ensure a safe, happy visit. The rules include (1):

  • 1 dog per person at a time
  • All dogs must be registered to the owner/handler walking the dog around the zoo (not puppy sitters!)
  • Handlers must be at least 18 years old and cannot also be responsible for managing children at the same time.
  • All dogs visiting the zoo must have at least one regular, annual vet check-up.
  • Dogs must receive monthly heartworm prevention and annual heartworm test.
  • All dogs must be vaccinated against:
    • Rabies
    • Canine distemper virus
    • Canine parvovirus
  • Each dog must have a well-fitting harness or collar with:
    • One tag containing contact information for owners
    • One tag that confirms rabies vaccination status
  • Collars must be worn at all times.
  • No retractable leashes are allowed.
  • The following dogs are not permitted:
    • Puppies under 4 months of age
    • Sick dogs
    • Dogs with active injuries (stitches, bandages, etc.)
    • Female dogs in heat

More Rules

While in the zoo, dogs must remain on-leash at all times and are not allowed to go past any barriers of any exhibits. There are certain areas where the dog cannot go, and pet owners must clean up after their dogs and place the waste in the appropriate bins. (1)

Dogs and their owners will be asked to leave if their dog is exhibiting poor or disruptive behavior and the handler does not get them under control. They will also be asked to leave if the dog is causing undue stress to the zoo animals themselves. (1)

No balls or toys are allowed to be brought into the zoo for the dogs to play with. Digging is not permitted, and if your dog does dig, owners must do their best to fill in the holes. Owners can bring dog food into the zoo, but under no circumstances can they feed this food to zoo animals. (1)

Keep Reading: Here’s A Pig In Pink Tulips, To Brighten Up Your Day


  1. DOG FRIENDLY.” Elm Wood Park Zoo
  2. Elmwood Zoo Becomes First Zoo In America To Go ‘Dog-Friendly’.” Patch. Justin Heinze. febrary 19, 2021.