Jake’s On Devine patron Jason Collins with his dogs, Ike and Millibelle (Photos by Audrey Elsberry)

Columbia is officially a pet friendly city, according to the Better Cities for Pets Program. 

Columbia was given the title of “certified city,” designating it as a city that makes it easy for residents to own animals by having pet-friendly restaurants, bars, parks and other amenities.

The well-being of a city is improved when its residents own pets because pet owners report having less loneliness, getting more exercise and forming stronger social ties, according to Better Cities for Pets. 

Better Cities for Pets, sponsored by pet food maker Mars Petcare, has worked with local governments across the country since 2019 to ensure city residents have access to pet-friendly housing options, green spaces and transit. 

The program helps “cities (to) become more pet friendly and to celebrate those that are taking steps to help people and pets have a great life together,” Lisa Campbell, director of external affairs at Mars Petcare North America, said via email. 

“Achieving certification also showcases Columbia as a leading city that is prioritizing being pet friendly – it’s one of only 100 Certified Cities across the country,” Campbell said. 

Cities are graded in four categories — shelters, homes, businesses and parks. 

The businesses category requires that “businesses make it easy to be out with your pet,” according to its website. Columbia has its fair share of pet friendly outing opportunities. 

Jake’s On Devine, a popular bar among college students and community residents alike, claims to be “THE most dog friendly bar in town,” according to its website. 

The bar hosts Yappy Hour every Tuesday and Thursday, where dog owners can bring their pet and give them free reign over the outdoor patio. The dogs get to play with one another and be showered in affection from human bar-goers. 

Jason Collins, a Columbia resident and opera singer, regularly takes his two dogs, Ike and Minnibelle, to Jake’s during Yappy Hour.

“I do find it rather pet friendly, and I do keep seeing more dog bowls out,” Collins said about the city. 

Collins loves bringing his dogs to Jake’s because it allows him to work on his music research, let the dogs socialize and get a drink. 

“And they don’t upcharge on the drinks,” Collins joked. 

Market on Main, an indoor/outdoor restaurant on Main Street, is also a Columbia destination that welcomes pets.

“We do enjoy having pets as long as they are friendly as well,” said Sydney Lopez, the manager of Market on Main. It “just kind of creates a better community and a sense of better living in Columbia.”

Lopez said Columbia’s warm climate is partly to thank, because it allows patrons to dine outdoors with their pets year-round.

The ability to be outside at all months of the year also means Columbia parks are always in use. Making sure these parks are accessible to pets is crucial, according to Todd Martin, Columbia’s parks department park planner and landscape architect.

“A lot of the users in our parks have pets and want to experience the parks with their pets, so we want to make it as comfortable as possible for them,” Martin said. 

Certified cities also ensure pet needs are included in city planning.

While many parks in the city allow visitors to bring their pets, the city has many parks specifically for dogs. There are at least three dog parks in the city, Martin said.

The parks department tries to “create as many opportunities as we can for everyone in the community, and that includes pets, animals, dogs,” Martin said. 

Being a pet friendly city demonstrates that Columbia leaders understand the love people have for their pets and the benefits that furry friends can bring to a community’s wellbeing, Campbell said. 

Local dog Ike runs around the patio at Jake’s On Devine during Yappy Hour.

Minnibelle sits among the picnic tables at Jake’s On Devine.