Studies have shown that pets can lower human blood pressure and reduce our levels of stress. Whether you have an animal companion at home or not, there are plenty of places in L.A. to love on our animal friends big and small. Of course, most local domestic animal rescues rely on the big hearts of volunteers to walk dogs, feed cats and foster animals. During the holidays or any time of the year, consider donating to these vital organizations and support their important work.
Read on for the best places in Los Angeles for animal lovers.
Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) - LAX
Flying can sometimes be “ruff.” Look for the red-vested therapy dogs with the Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) logos in the departures level of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and cuddle your fears away. Each pup handler and dog has completed an in-terminal training and all are registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Check the LAX website for volunteer and special event information.
Sir Hyatt of Regency
Guests checking into the Hyatt Regency LAX (6225 W Century Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045) will be greeted in the lobby by Sir Hyatt of Regency, the hotel's official welcome ambassador and certified therapy dog. Sir Hyatt's business card says that his favorite snack is the carne asada fries at the hotel's onsite restaurant, unity la™ . According to Pet Companion Magazine airline pilots frequently request Sir Hyatt for walks around the spacious property.
Crumbs & Whiskers
Crumbs & Whiskers (7924 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles 90046) started with owner Kanchan Singh’s Kickstarter campaign and the dream of helping more shelter cats get adopted. The first Crumbs & Whiskers in Washington, D.C. did so well that she went West Coast, opening a second location on Melrose Avenue in L.A. Visits must be pre-booked via the website. Pricing is $22 on weekdays and $25 on weekends, which gets you 75 minutes of feline playtime. Lattes not included.
The Dog Café
The first of its kind in America, The Dog Café (240 N. Virgil Ave, Unit 12, Los Angeles 90004) is nestled in a Silver Lake strip mall, where guests can pay $15 for an hour of fun with dogs rescued from L.A. shelters. Pups live on site for as long as it takes to find them forever homes and are free to roam the play area, showing their personalities outside of stressful shelter environments. The staff reports large numbers of post-work visitors stopping by just to decompress - many successful adoptions have happened since their grand opening in April 2016. Humans are introduced to the dogs in small groups and while walk-ins can sometimes be accommodated, reservations are recommended.
STAR Eco Station
Bring the kids to STAR Eco Station (10101 Jefferson Blvd, Culver City 90232), an environmental science museum/exotic rescue facility in Culver City, to learn more about tortoises, fish, alligators, parrots, pythons and more on a guided tour. Seasonal eco-camps teach kids about the care and feeding of their animals, with an emphasis on conservation and ecosystems. Party packages are also available. STAR Eco Station is a designated Official Wildlife Rescue Center by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Gentle Barn
The Gentle Barn (15825 Sierra Hwy, Santa Clarita 91390) rescues severely abused farm animals, offering them healing and lifelong sanctuary. Ellie Laks founded The Gentle Barn in 1999 on a half-acre of land in her backyard in Tarzana. Today it’s a six-acre paradise nestled in the mountains of Santa Clarita. The general public can visit the non-profit on Sundays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids. Season passes, two-hour private tours and a VIP All Day Tour with Ellie are also available. The Gentle Barn also offers children's tours for special needs, at-risk youth and educational programs.
Their annual Gentle Thanksgiving fundraiser, which includes a gourmet vegan meal and Native American drum circle amongst the turkeys, started 18 years ago as their “feel-good event of the year.” But any day of the year, visitors are guaranteed to leave inspired by the likes of Faith the blind cow, Hiroka the one-eyed horse, Braveheart the mighty goat, Nalla the cuddle-loving turkey, Earl the elegant Emu and other furry and feathered friends.
This 26-acre hacienda ranch is located in Acton, about 45 minutes from Hollywood. At any given time, Farm Sanctuary (5200 Escondido Canyon Rd, Acton 93510) is home to up to 100 cows, pigs, turkeys and other farm animals. It is a well-revered haven to creatures great and small, even offering an adoption network for animals escaping cruel environments. Spokesperson and president Gene Baur has been hailed as “the conscience of the food movement” by TIME magazine. On Saturdays and Sundays, they open their barn doors to visitors for one-hour tours. Group tours are available by appointment. For upcoming events, visit the Farm Sanctuary website.
Located in Acton, the Shambala Preserve (6867 Soledad Canyon Rd, Acton 93510) is the high desert home for over 30 exotic felines “who have suffered from gross mistreatment or neglect” in their previous lives. The big cat sanctuary was founded by actress Tippi Hedren, who serves as president of the non-profit Roar Foundation and resides at Shambala. The property is only open to the public one weekend a month for Safari Tours, a three-hour planned program that includes a one-hour guided walking tour. Sunset Safaris and deluxe Malaika Marquee overnight tent stays are also available.
Safari Tours are available by advance reservation, for ages 18 and up only. Admission is $50 per person. Special school and youth group tours are available through their Partners in Education program.