The Ultimate Guide to Visiting New York City with Your Pet

Jonathan Zeller

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Millions of people vacation with their pets every year. If you’re one of them, New York City is a good place to visit—we have plenty of pet-friendly hotels, our transit system welcomes dogs and cats, and there is an abundance of fun activities you can share with your four-legged friend here (for example, visiting Central Park).

Want to bring Fido along for your trip? Here’s what you need to know.

Traveling to the City with Your Pet

By plane
If you’re flying, choose an airline that can accommodate pets. Many airlines restrict the size and types of animals on their flights, and where on the plane they can fly. If you want to make sure your little buddy can sit near you, you’d better ask. And book early—some airlines cap the number of pets allowed per flight.

By train
Amtrak allows dogs and cats on some trains but has stringent rules. For example, pets have to be kept in a carrier beneath your seat, and they can’t require any attention during the trip. They also have to be “odorless,” so maybe give your pet a bath before the trip. To see whether you can meet Amtrak’s requirements, check amtrak.com. Amtrak also limits the number of pets on each train, so make sure to book well in advance.

Internationally
If you’re bringing a pet into the United States from another country—by any mode of transportation—you’ll need to think about customs. This document [PDF] from US Customs gives an overview of the requirements to transport your dog, cat or other animal into the country, but you’ll want to do a lot of research before committing to do so—for the good of yourself and your pet.

Papers
As a general rule, you should carry proof that you own your pet, and that he or she is fully vaccinated. Also make sure your pet is wearing a tag with your contact info, and consider a microchip as an extra precaution.

Courtesy, Highgate Hotels

Where to Stay with Your Pet

Make sure you book a hotel that allows pets. It’s a good idea to call ahead and confirm as much. Some NYC hotels offer pet-friendly perks like grooming and custom food menus. Check out our roundup of pet-friendly hotels, or search all of the options on our site.

Once you’ve found your hotel, ask yourself whether you’ll be leaving your pet alone in the room and, if so, what you’ll need to do to ensure your pet’s safety. You may need to survey the room—a new environment—for potential hazards.

Getting Around the City with Your Pet

Subways
Dogs and cats are allowed on New York City subway trains, but must be kept in a carrier at all times. The MTA also says animals must not “annoy” other passengers

Buses
The rules on the bus are the same as those for the subway trains. Keep in mind that you’ll have to pass the driver as you board, so make sure your pet is securely in the carrier before the bus pulls up.

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Taxis
Dogs are allowed in taxis as long as the driver is OK with it. If a driver refuses your request, try to hail another cab. And don’t forget to tip.

Commuter rail lines
Dogs in carriers are permitted on NYC-area commuter rail lines. On Metro-North, you can even have them on a leash outside of a carrier.

Staten Island Ferry
Pets are only allowed on the ferry if they are caged and/or muzzled

Eating with Your Pet

Thanks to a recent, welcome change to New York State law, dogs are allowed in restaurants’ outdoor seating areas (with the restaurant’s consent, of course). Most restaurants and cafés with outdoor seating will probably allow your dog to eat with you, but it’s always best to call ahead and make sure you know their policy. It’s illegal to bring your dog into an indoor restaurant, coffee shop or anywhere else that serves food; there are a few places that’ll let it slide, but they’re taking a risk by doing so.

In short, you’re better off visiting during the spring or summer if you want to eat with your dog. That’s when the most restaurants have outdoor seating.

A side note: many establishments have special treats just for four-legged visitors. For example: the Pooch-ini at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park is a custard-and-dog-biscuit concoction (they note, however, that it’s intended only for large dogs).

Central Park. Central Park. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

More Stuff to Do with Your Dog

Now that you’re well versed in traveling around the City and eating with your pet, how about a few activities just for them? NYC is packed with dog runs and parks, some of which have off-leash hours for when your dog needs to burn off some energy. Prospect Park even has a dog beach specifically designated for canines’ bathing pleasure. For details, visit nycgovparks.org

The New York Mets major league baseball team, their minor league affiliate the Brooklyn Cyclones and Bronx Bombers farm team the Staten Island Yankees host Bark in the Park nights, when your dog can sit with you and even walk around the field.

Things to Do with Other Pets

That’s trickier. The City has cat cafés (like Meow Parlour), but those are for folks who want to hang out with—and potentially adopt—cats that need homes. You can’t bring your own cat or other animal in. We have occasionally seen people walking their cats on leashes around the City, though. 

If you have another type of pet that’s not listed here, just make sure it’s legal to bring it to NYC. If so: welcome, and have fun.

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