PetFriendlyMeaford270Recently, the Municipality of Meaford was listed as one of 25 North American communities to achieve the first-ever certification for pet-friendliness from the Better Cities for Pets Organization, an initiative created by Mars Petcare and the Civic Design Center in Tennessee.

This award is given to communities going above and beyond in making their home friendly for four-legged friends, which have made a commitment to ongoing promotion of pet-friendly initiatives. There has been stiff competition for this pet-friendly certification, and of the twenty-five recipient communities, included were major U.S. cities like Memphis, Oakland, Tucson, and even Dallas.

In fact, Meaford was the only Canadian location to receive this prestigious pet-friendly certification, and for good reason. Over the last decade, Meaford has been taking steps to ensure the town is welcoming to all four-legged friends, whether they're visitors or year-round residents.

Some of Meaford’s most popular pet-friendly attractions include:

1. The Beautiful Joe off-leash dog park, featuring two separate fenced-in areas, along with fresh drinking water, picnic tables, and poop bags. Here, you will see a variety of dogs of all shapes and sizes. From the many locals who use the park daily to the campers and weekend visitors, there is always a furry friend to play with at the Beautiful Joe off-leash dog park.

2. Beautiful Joe Park, managed by the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society along with the Municipality of Meaford. This 8.5 acre park runs alongside the beautiful Bighead River, and pays homage to the true story of Beautiful Joe, an abused and neglected dog who gets a second chance at life in Meaford. This touching story was the inspiration for prolific Canadian author Margaret Marshall Saunders’s 1893 novel, Beautiful Joe. This best-selling novel was a significant contributor to worldwide awareness of animal cruelty, and is still used to this day. By 1900, Beautiful Joe had sold over one million copies worldwide. People from all over the world visit Meaford specifically for Beautiful Joe Park. Whether it’s to learn more about the tale of Beautiful Joe himself, the 9/11 monument, or the Service Dog monument, there is no shortage of history and culture here.

3. Memorial Park’s leash-free dog beach is a huge attraction for dog owners wanting to have fun in the sun. Here, dogs can frolic in refreshing Georgian Bay from spring through fall. During the winter months, the entire park is off-leash friendly, allowing dogs to run the grounds freely under supervision.

4. There are plenty of pet-friendly hiking and walking trails to keep your pet stimulated and well exercised. From the world-famous Bruce Trail, to the Tom Thompson Trail, to the Trout Hollow Trail, there are a variety of terrains and landscapes waiting to be explored with your on-leash four-legged friends.

5. Dozens of pet-related businesses and organizations throughout town, including trainers, groomers, sitters, rescues, shelters, foster organizations, dog walkers, pet health experts, and more.

6. Pet-friendly motels and Airbnb rentals, making it easier to travel to and from Meaford with your pets.

When you think about it, to have all of these amenities in a town with a population of less than 11,000 is quite remarkable.

The assessment for certification for pet-friendliness from the Better Cities for Pets Organization looked at data on existing and future pet-friendly features in three areas: city profile, survey, and priorities. They were evaluated on twelve different traits of pet-friendly cities surrounding shelters, homes, parks, and businesses.

These assessment criteria included the following:


1. Partners collaborate to end pet homelessness. In Meaford and the surrounding area, animal rescue groups are tight-knit, and often work together to find fosters and forever-homes for homeless animals. Resources are often shared amongst rescues, too.

2. Shelters are warm and welcoming to encourage adoption.

3. Community cat programs humanely address overpopulation. Local rescue groups in our area prioritize health checks and spaying/neutering for all animals that come into their care, to help reduce our homeless and feral cat populations.


1. Pet-friendly housing options exist for all families and pets. In our local area, many rental units are pet-friendly, something that becomes less common the closer you get to the Greater Toronto Area.

2. In tough times, support exists to help keep pets in homes. Meaford benefits from food bank donations, and the wonderful work of SMILE, a volunteer-run organization providing short-term fostering for people who are temporarily displaced.

3. Pet amenities are available in housing and neighbourhoods. This includes all of the wonderful amenities listed above.


1. Pet needs are included in city, park, and greenspace planning.

2. Public pet amenities support good health for all.

3. People know the expectations for pets in public places. This includes proper signage in public parks.


1. Businesses make it easy to be out and about with your pet. This is especially true in the downtown core, where many businesses leave out water dishes and offer treats for dogs walking by.

2. Travelling with dogs and cats is accessible and affordable.

3. Workplaces know and support the benefits of pets at work. It isn't uncommon to visit local businesses and see a friendly dog or two!

Every city that applied for the certification was assessed based on how well they meet these principles, and also what their future plans are for improvement in weak areas. This program started after studies found that up to 82% of pet owners stated that having a pet positively benefits their life, 72% said that they would be more likely to move to a new area if it was pet friendly, and 67% said they were more likely to spend money at a business that welcomes pets.

Do you have an idea to make Meaford more pet friendly? Let your town councillor know!

Brandon Forder – also known as The Pet Expert - is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, a family-owned and -operated business located in Meaford. He has over twenty-five years of experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and healthy pet lifestyles. Canadian Pet Connection is an industry leader committed to providing their clients with the highest levels of personal, attentive service. Learn more at