Travel San Diego: Check out the dogs at the zoo. That’s right. Dogs.

Can you bring your dog to the San Diego Zoo?

No. But that’s not surprising. They don’t have kennels either, so you’ll have to find a babysitter for Fido if you want to see the world renown zoo while in California.

San Diego dog cheetah 2However, you can still see dogs at the zoo. Currently, two live there – with cheetahs.

Yes, cheetahs.

Honey is a white lab born June 2014 and she’s best friends with female cheetah Ayana born September 2014. Miley, a cute lab mix, is best buds with male cheetah Bakka, born at the zoo in 2008.

Since 1980, the San Diego zoo have been pairing cheetah ‘ambassadors’ with dog buddies that help keep them calm and secure. The cheetahs are chosen when young to be trained to meet with people to teach about endangered species. To make it easier on the cheetah, handlers pair them with a dog buddy when both are young and playful.

San Diego dog and cheetaSome dogs in the program are from shelters; some (like Honey) are ‘failed’ service dogs. But all are about six months old when they first meet their four-month-old potential life-long cheetah friend. Of course, they’re introduced slowly to determine compatibility.

If they bond, they live together in the cheetah enclosure, separated only when they eat. Both animals are also walked around the park on leashes.

san diego dog and cheetah 1According to the Zoo, dogs are naturally comfortable with people, even those they don’t know. Cheetahs are more cautious and wary of new situations so being an ambassador – meeting people outside the confines of their enclosures – can be unnerving. A familiar dog buddy the cheetah trusts can show them everything is ok.

Apparently, the dog’s body language communicates that there’s nothing to fear, and that relaxes and calms the flight tendencies of the cheetah.

Who knew? Cheetah’s need service dogs too.

What is dog-friendly in San Diego? A lot. Checkout’s San Diego dog quest here.



  1. […] Zoos allow dogs (although there’s a dog living at the San Diego Zoo) understandably because they’ll likely disrupt the animals behind the enclosures. However, […]

  2. This just brought a smile to my face! What a great idea!

    1. It’s an interesting program – support dogs for zoo animals.

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