If you live in Virginia Beach, you’ve likely noticed it’s a very dog-friendly location. With its pet-friendly restaurants, hotels, parks, and other recreational areas, it’s clear this city truly recognizes the healing power of dogs. After all, dogs do more than just bring smiles to faces: they also significantly impact the lives of those with physical limitations, mental disabilities, and other health conditions.
This guide is designed to demonstrate how Virginia Beach embraces the inherent therapeutic power of man’s best friend. We’ll unleash information including:
- How to find therapy and service dogs in the area
- Available volunteer and work opportunities with animal organizations
- Where you can adopt a dog of your own, places current owners can take their four-legged friends
- Resources for extra help in caring for your pet.
Not only are the human inhabitants of this beautiful city considerate of dogs, but the pooches find ways to give back, too. The Virginia Beach Public Library offers a program called Pawsitive Reading where K-5 children can sit and read aloud with therapy dogs.
The trained dogs make good companions because they offer a nonjudgmental, no-pressure audience. Reading aloud is great for kids because it improves their abilities and generates excitement for reading, plus it increases self-esteem as skills improve.
Participants must bring permission slips signed by a parent or legal guardian, and slips are location-specific. Check this event calendar for participating locations and times and then snag a permission form here.
Dogs don’t just help children read, they can help them heal, too. The Buddy Brigade pet therapy program brings dogs like shepherds, poodles, shelties, and retrievers to the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters to visit sick and injured kids.
The presence of the dogs helps calm their nerves and distract them from medical treatments, not to mention brings them a little comfort in the midst of their hospitalization. Benefits include big smiles, lowered blood pressure, and even improved recovery times. All dogs are certified by therapy dog professionals and are thoroughly trained and screened.
Whether you have a dog of your own and want to take an outing with him or you’re an animal lover simply looking to get some of the benefits that being in the presence of an animal can provide, there are many places in Virginia Beach that are welcoming to dogs of all kinds.
There are three leash-free dog parks in Virginia Beach where you can enjoy the company of dogs.
Generally speaking, dog owners who take their companions to parks, restaurants, and other public places are confident that their dog is friendly around people.
However, if you’re visiting as a spectator, be sure to always ask an owner’s permission before approaching or petting his or her dog.
Virginia Beach has three leash-free parks:
- Bayville Farms Park, at 4132 First Court Rd.
- Red Wing Park, at 1398 General Booth Blvd.
- Woodstock Park, at 5709 Providence Rd.
Here’s what you’ll need to know if you plan on visiting any of these three parks with your pooch:
- Your dog must be registered with the city for an annual fee of $15 for the first dog and $10 for each additional dog (payable via cash or check).
- You can register at any of these three parks as long as you bring proof of city license and a rabies certificate for proof of vaccination.
- Once you’ve met these requirements, you’ll be given a dog park pass for each pooch and they’ll be granted entry to all three parks.
Additionally, all three of these parks have the following requirements:
- Dogs should be wearing collars with I.D. tags.
- There is a limit of four dogs per person.
- Female dogs are prohibited from entering while in heat.
- Dogs must be at least four months old to join the fun.
- Owners must clean up any waste their dogs leave behind.
- Owners are required to fill any holes dug by their dogs.
While Woodstock and Red Wing both have fenced, one-acre areas for dogs of all sizes to play in together, Bayville Farms has separate fenced areas for large and small dogs.
No matter how well-behaved your dog is, he should be constantly monitored to make sure he is continuously interacting positively with other animals and people. Uncontrollable or aggressive dogs should immediately be removed. Owners are liable for any damage their dogs may cause, and any incidents should immediately be reported to staff.
If you’re more of a beachcomber than a park-goer, you’re likely to catch a dog in your oceanside view since they’re invited to vacation all year round. There are a few seasonal limitations:
- During the spring (prior to Memorial Day weekend) and fall (after Labor Day weekend), dogs may explore the public beaches and boardwalk area (given that they’re leashed and cleaned up after, of course).
- In the summer, they are restricted to the north end of the beach (above 42nd Street) and the south end (in the Sandbridge area) before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
- While he’s permitted to visit the boardwalk during the summer, he must visit in the morning between 6 and 10 a.m.
There are countless options for canine encounters within the city as well. Restaurants like Leaping Lizard Cafe and Cactus Jack’s allow dogs in outdoor seating areas. If you’re feeling the heat, stop by Bruster’s Real Ice Cream shop, where pups can enjoy a real ice cream sundae with dog bone sprinkles. For more dog-friendly restaurants and cafés in the area, check out this list from Bring Fido.
Are you a visitor to the Virginia Beach area who wants to bring your dog? DogFriendly.com put together this list of hotels and vacation home rentals where your best friend is more than welcome. There are also numerous emergency vet clinics, including Blue Pearl (which has services available 24 hours a day), the Beach Veterinary Emergency Center, and Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital, in the event of a crisis.
Maybe right now isn’t the right time for you to buy your own dog. Or maybe you don’t think being a full-time pet parent is the right fit for you. If you still want a way to take advantage of the pooches around you, working with dogs might be a better fit.
One of the easiest ways to indulge in your canine-loving ways and make some extra money is to open up your home and become a dog boarder with Rover, allowing your neighbors to go on vacation knowing their dog will be cared for. Don’t have the space in your home? You can also sign up to housesit with the dog or even become a dog walker.
If you’re looking to donate your time, there are ample opportunities for you to do so. The Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center has volunteer opportunities for adults and children (ages 13-17), including fostering, working at the shelter, helping with special events, and gathering donations. The process to become a volunteer here requires an application and background check.
The Virginia Beach SPCA also has plenty of ways for you to volunteer your time. Adult volunteer responsibilities include clerical work, dog walking, adoption counseling, fostering, and special events. Adults with mental or physical disabilities—even those who require a caregiver’s assistance—are also invited to come and make a difference in animals’ lives. Those interested in volunteering should contact the Virginia Beach SPCA by email to discuss potential opportunities.
Still having trouble finding the right opportunity for you? Consider creating your own program! For example, you could bring in dogs to visit seniors or disabled adults in their own homes. There currently aren’t any home visit programs in Virginia Beach, but there are undoubtedly people all over the city who would find great comfort and joy from receiving a visit from a sweet, loving dog.
You can work also as a facilitator between shelters and visiting locations, or find out if your own dog qualifies to become a therapy dog. Just because the opportunity you seek isn’t there now doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist at all, so get out there!
The benefits of owning a dog are many and varied, but it’s not a decision to make lightly. Adopting a dog is a lifelong commitment. You’re embracing a new member of your family, and even if that only makes two of you for now, there are many factors to consider.
When contemplating adoption, consider whether you have the time and resources to be a good dog parent. If you’re thinking of adopting a family dog, talk to the members of your household and see how they feel about it and who, if anyone, is willing to share responsibility. You could even foster a dog in need to assess whether or not you’re ready for the commitment.
Even if you decide you’re not ready to adopt a pet and don’t end up keeping him, you’ll still accomplish moving a homeless pet out of a shelter and help him transition into home life. Still not sure? Take this quiz for more insight.
A major dog adoption center in the area is the Virginia Beach SPCA. All adopted dogs are spayed or neutered before adoption and receive rabies vaccinations (or a certificate for vaccination for puppies too young), a microchip and a 6-month supply of heartworm preventative medicine. The fee for dogs and puppies is $175.
K-9 New Life is a non-profit, no-kill, all-breed program that takes in dogs that have run out of time in a shelter or that have gotten too sick for the shelter to handle. Dogs are put in a foster home and given necessary health care and training, and they receive a veterinary check-up that includes a spay or neuter, vaccinations, a deworming regimen, and treatment and preventative care for heartworms and fleas before adoption.
Other local shelters you’ll want to consider include:
- The K-9 Justice League
- Fur-Ever Home Rescue
- The Virginia Beach Care and Adoption Center
- Hope for Life Rescue
All of these shelters have loving animals who would love to come home with you, either as a foster or as your forever companion!
Keep in mind that rescuing a shelter dog, while a noble and worthwhile decision, comes with added responsibility. Rescue dogs may require extra training and special handling, depending on their situation. Check out these tips if you’re considering a rescue, including pointers on how to help your dog acclimate to his new home.
Shelters are a great place to start, but maybe you have some specifics in mind. Check out this special search engine that lets you search for adoptable dogs by location, breed, sex, size, color, and age.
Service Dogs of Virginia is a non-profit organization that trains, raises and places dogs to assist those with disabilities. They train dogs for physical assistance, autism assistance and diabetic alert:
- Physical assistance dogs assist people in wheelchairs with tasks like picking up items and opening doors.
- Autism service dogs are trained to prevent autistic children from wandering off, improving communication, assisting with social interactions, and facilitating easier transitions from one activity to the next.
- Diabetic alert dogs are specially-trained to alert their owners of low blood sugar in order to help prevent short-term risks like passing out and seizures, as well as long-term risks like loss of limbs, early blindness, and even early death.
The program provides ongoing training and support for individuals and families, including updated or additional training if needs should change.
Virginia Beach also hosts a branch of a non-profit organization called Guiding Eyes for the Blind. It provides well-bred and well-trained guide dogs to the visually impaired. Dogs not suited for guiding are sometimes trained to become autism service dogs for children. All services are offered free of charge to eligible individuals and families. They also offer volunteer opportunities.
If finances are tight and you’re having trouble caring for your beloved four-legged family member, there are organizations that can help.
Whether you’re a senior, a veteran, an individual with a physical or mental disability, or someone simply facing financial hardship, you may benefit from assistance provided by one of the following groups.
The H.O.P.E. (Helping Out Pets Everywhere) Program provides bags of cat and dog food to eligible families struggling to make ends meet (when H.O.P.E. has extra in their facilities). The program also offers temporary foster care for those facing housing crises or fleeing violent situations at home.
The Angel Canines for Wounded Warriors organization helps American military veterans with mobility disorders, loss of hearing or sight, amputations and PTSD.
Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia partners with the Virginia Beach SPCA to prepare and deliver pet food to homebound seniors and adults with disabilities.
CareCredit offers veterinary financing for both annual expenses (like preventative care check-ups) and unexpected costs (like prescriptions and veterinary house calls in emergency situations).
The Humane Society has fantastic resources to help, including this list of Virginia-specific financial aid organizations for pet owners. You can also search to find a low-cost spay or neuter program in your area.
Whether you are a current dog-owner or an individual who would benefit from physical or emotional assistance from a service animal, Virginia Beach has abundant resources to support you. And if you aspire to be a hero to a fuzzy friend through adoption, fostering or volunteer work, you have no shortage of opportunities. Whatever your mission, Virginia Beach is a wonderful place for dogs and those who love them to call home!
Top image via Pixabay