Labradors, cats and chihuahuas are Denver’s most popular pets

And chihuahuas might be Denver’s most on-the-loose pets.
6 min. read
(Data source: Denver Animal Protection)

An analysis of mostly cuddly and furry data from Denver Animal Protection shows us some hard truths about Denverites' pet preferences. Sorry to all you greyhound, dachshund, spaniel, wolfhound, jindo, longhair cat and husky fans: your pets are not the most popular in town.

Of all the dogs and cats registered with the city, Labradors, shorthaired kitties and chihuahuas take the biscuit(s). We found that's true when we broke it down by zip code. The most popular type in every zip code in the city was one of these three companion types.

Consider the map above, keeping two important caveats in mind:

The first is that Denver's breed data is all self-identified, meaning there's no genetic scientist testing each pet's label for accuracy. The second is that this map does not contain every single pet registered with the city. There are A LOT more pets that are on the city's roster that are registered to zip codes outside the metro area. Some may belong to people who just moved. Others may belong to people with more than one home. Still more may just be from visitors who want to use Denver dog parks in a very strict legal way (they're supposed to be registered here to play here, a city spokesperson told us).

These three pet champions held their places at the top when we looked at all of the pets registered with the city, regardless of zip code. Here's a breakdown of the most popular kinds:

(Data source: Denver Animal Protection)

This and the map up top represent pet licenses sold since 2015, so it still includes pets registered since then who may have moved on from Denver.

In case you were wondering, second-place favorites for each zip code were mostly Labradors, shorthair domestic cats and chihuahuas, though German shepherds, miniature poodles and huskies each got one silver medal. For third places, chihuahuas took 12 zip codes followed by domestic shorthair cats and golden retrievers with eight zip codes each, followed by labs and miniature poodles.

What these visualizations don't show us is the sheer diversity of breeds in town. Denver Animal Protection's database recognizes 327 distinct varieties of cats and dogs. For some context, the World Canine Organization officially recognizes about 360 dog breeds. Denver's data does show one pet registered as a horse.

Denver's list may be a source of education. This reporter, for instance, had never heard of a pharaoh hound, although a quick search showed it looks like something out of a hieroglyph. Or what about the komondor, which is basically a big snuggly mop? Or the saluki, which looks like a fluffier version of a racing greyhound. This reporter recognizes he has a lot to learn.

Where are all the lost dogs?

And now: the darker side of Denver's dog world.

According to calls into the city's 311 call center, there were about 300 calls from residents who lost pets between 2016 and 2019.

Denver Animal Protection's data says the division responded to 4,845 calls about loose dogs with no discernible owner between 2015 and 2019. These are cases when someone finds a dog, "holds the animal safely, and then calls Denver Animal Protection to pick up the animal."

Below is a breakdown of the loose dog data by zipcode. One note: These are zip codes in which loose dogs were picked up by the city, not necessarily where they were found.

Lt. Joshua Rolfe, who leads Denver Animal Protection, told Denverite that the places where the most dogs were picked up reflect areas with the most "resource sparsity" for pet owners. They're places where his "outreach team" is working to become a bigger presence.

"This is exactly why we focus our outreach efforts in those areas," he said. "I think spay and neuter rates are lower than we'd like them to be citywide, which is something we're trying to make real progress toward. Starting in these areas where we've already deployed our outreach team to bring services to underserved areas of the city makes sense."

There's one big caveat to the lost dog map: Denver's main animal shelter is in that darkest blue tract, and Rolfe said the data probably reflects a lot of people who just drove a stray dog right to the shelter.

Denver Animal Rescue officer Jay LaPointe reports a stray dog he picked up in southwest Denver, March 29, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

But there may be one more factor at play. Comparing the lost dog map and the breed map, you may have noticed that the areas where chihuahuas reign are also the areas where the city picks up many strays.

Rolfe said that correlation might have to do with size. Smaller dogs have an easier time slipping past obstacles. You wouldn't have to worry about a lab squeezing through a small hole in a fence, and chihuahuas don't need to dig very deep holes to get beneath one.

A quick public service announcement...

Tammy Vigil, spokesperson for Denver's Department of Public Health & Environment, helped us get this info together and asked that we share some pet info with you.

Denver Animal Protection manages pet licenses, and it's something you can do online. It costs as little as $15 for one year or as much as $150 for a lifetime registration. People over the age of 65 are eligible for one free license, and service dog licenses are also free.

"All dogs and cats in Denver are required by law to be licensed," Vigil wrote to us in an email, and it helps deal with "tragedies" associated with lost pets and overpopulation.

The fees support Denver Animal Protection's work, which ranges from picking up stray pets to saving urban wildlife and chasing roosters.

Now, please enjoy this roundup of nice Denver pets:

Some of the dogs we met at City Park Jazz, July 14, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Goodnight, window cat. June 12, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Newly-adopted Archer and his human, Marlena Sacks, frolic in Civic Center Park. May 31, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Harry is a very nice Denver window dog, April 22, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Sven, Gary, Annabelle and Lulu play inside Senator Lois Court's office, April 30, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Henry the flower shop dog heads for a treat in front of the soon-opening Plant Garage, which will replace Urban Roots in the Golden Triangle area, Nov. 13, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Baby, the mascot and charismatic greeter over at Art District Antiques on Santa Fe Drive, Aug. 1, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Reverend Leon Kelly's fish inside his office at Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives headquarters downtown, Sept. 26, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Louie. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
A good dog at Aviano Coffee in Cherry Creek, April 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Dog-a-Pool-ooza at Cook Park Pool, Aug. 13, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Rob Rushing holds his champion Corgi Erk. A Kentucky Derby party at Stanley Marketplace, May 6, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Hedy Starr of Party Safari animal casting services poses with Turok the monitor lizard at the Denver Pet Expo. Aug. 21, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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