Wagtown wants to help make Dayton more dog friendly

Wagtown wants to help make Dayton more dog friendly (WKEF/WRGT)

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) -- Is Dayton a dog friendly city?

"Not yet," Wagtown Founder & CEO Beth Miller said. "But we have fantastic ideas on how to get there."

Miller founded Wagtown, a non-profit, in 2016. She quit her 30-year career to pursue a passion for pets, specifically dogs.

"People are starting to recognize that dollars follow dogs," she said.

Miller said the pet space is a $74 billion industry, and is continually growing. She's spent the past two years doing research across the country and conducted more than 400 interviews.

"When I did research in New York," she explained, "I had four different realty groups tell me that the number one question is no longer how are your schools, it's where can I take my dog."

Through that research, Miller has created an algorithm to rate a city's dog friendliness. As it stands Dayton does not score well, but she sees opportunity after an initial trepidation to make this her flagship city.

"We have the opioid crisis, the schools have some issues and we've got a lot of lifting to do here," she said. "[The person I spoke with initially about the idea of Wagtown] convinced me that's why we need it here. We have so many things bringing us down around here. We need something to give us that support."

The support extends far beyond emotional. Miller believes a commitment to this $74 billion industry could provide an economic boom for Dayton.

"People will say I want to live here because you're dog friendly. I can take my dog to those places, but it also brings in new businesses. It brings in people who want to patronize those businesses."

Eileen Goodman, who has a 6-year-old dog named Major, is from Kettering but spent 40 years living in Miami, Florida. She's been back in Kettering for the last two years and is coming up on the end of her lease. A move back to Florida is possible.

"I want to stay in Dayton," Goodman said. "If I stay in Dayton, it's downtown, but I do need a place for him because [Major] is that important to me. If he's not [happy] then I'm miserable. My life doesn't work if he's not happy."

Renee Roberts just finished physical therapy school. She lives in Beavercreek with her boyfriend and their 2.5-year-old dog Danni.

"She's pretty much everything to me," Roberts said.

Roberts is weighing her options as to what's next. Their family is all in the Cleveland area, but they like living in Dayton. Improvements to Dayton's dog friendliness would go a long way in making their final decision.

"[Danni] is part of our family," she said. "When you make a decision to uproot and leave your life, you think about your family."

Miller's research and travels show this is a trend among millennials.

"We're having people that are using the internet to find where to live based on how well they score dog friendliness wise," she said.

Miller says she's been in touch with city leaders to present her research and now hopes that will lead to prioritization and action.

FOX 45 reached out to the city for comment but has not yet heard back.

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