Note: A version of this story, along with the dog density map, was picked up by CityLab. The map was also featured as part of the Map Your World exhibit from Imagine Exhibitions. This story was originally published on Medium.
A few years ago, WNYC released a great project called Dogs of NYC, which unearthed scores of interesting factoids about man’s best friend in New York. Bella, for instance, is the most popular female dog name, while Max tops the list for males. Yorkshire Terrier is the most common breed across the city, though Pit Bulls rule Bed Stuy. Rocky is the most often-used “movie name,” while Kobe — outpacing Jeter and Carmelo, sacrilegiously — is the sports icon most frequently paid tribute to in the form of a furry four-legged pet.
But one canine question the WNYC analysis doesn’t answer is that of quantity and density. Which parts of New York are the most dog-crazed, and which appear to prefer fish, turtles, or other pets that don’t require an investment in a Pooper Scooper? In other words, what areas of the city rank highest for “dogs per capita”? New York State law requires that all dog owners license their dogs, and the valuable source that the original project was built from, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene database of city dog licenses, can help answer this question. Conveniently, WNYC offers this data in a Google Fusion Table, which includes the includes the name, gender, age as of 2015, breed, coat color, and home ZIP Code of nearly 100,000 canine New Yorkers.
Population by ZIP Code in New York turned out to be the trickier data to track down. Though the information lives on the US Census Website, it’s a challenging dataset to wrangle. Fortunately, the team at Splitwise has done so, and offers up a free spreadsheet of US population by ZIP Code on its blog. One technicality to note here: the Census data is broken out by ZCTAs, or Zip Code Tabulation Areas, which are statistical entities developed by the US Census Bureau for the purpose of data collection. A ZIP Code, as known by most, is in fact not a geographic area but a collection of routes and addresses created by the US Postal Service for mail delivery. Given the Census population data is provided by ZCTA, that’s what is used for this project, knowing that in some cases the government’s approximation of ZIP Code areas may not be perfectly accurate.
Given both the counts of dogs by NYC ZIP Code and the populations of those ZIP Codes, the rate of dog ownership per person comes to light. Here are New York City ZIP Codes mapped by dogs per capita:
The most canine-friendly ratios of dogs to inhabitants are concentrated in Manhattan: of the highest-ranking ZIP Codes, that is where nine of the top 10, and 18 of the top 25, are located. Staten Island, by far the smallest New York borough by population, is the next most-densely inhabited by dogs. ZIP Code 10464 in the Southeast Bronx ranks just outside the top 10, while a Brooklyn ZIP Code doesn’t make an appearance until rank number 24 (ZIP 11201, Northwest Brooklyn), and the first Queens area on the list is at number 27 (ZIP 11379, West Central Queens).
New Yorkers who suffer from allergies, feel they’ve cleaned pet waste from their shoes one too many times, or work for the Postal Service can look to parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and northern Manhattan and the Bronx as areas where dogs don’t run the show. Then again, WNYC reported that the Health Department estimates only one in five dogs are licensed. There may be tiny, four-legged criminals walking the streets in areas that, according to the data, we’d least expect them.