updated 5/1/2007 9:09:00 AM ET 2007-05-01T13:09:00

An abundance of pet-friendly hotels, off-leash dog parks and vegetarian restaurants helped this city place first Monday on an animals rights group’s list of America’s most humane cities.

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Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Washington, D.C.; and San Diego followed San Francisco in the Humane Society of the United States’ inaugural index, which the organization compiled using state-level and national data.

The group used such factors as the number of fur retailers per capita and the ratio of wildlife watchers to hunters in ranking the country’s largest 25 metropolitan areas by those most compassionate toward animals.

“In San Francisco there is a consistent humane ethic that cuts across all kinds of issues,” said Jennifer Fearing, the Humane Society’s chief economist. “Puppy mill puppies aren’t being demanded from pet stores, people don’t want to buy fur and people are opposed to the seal hunt so are boycotting Canadian seafood.”

The Human Society’s designation is intended to generate community support for animal shelters, rescue societies and welfare groups, said Carl Friedman, director of the city’s Department of Animal Care and Control.

“It’s a very, very nice pat on the head saying you’ve done great work,” he said.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom called the award an honor, noting that pets are often given “equal status as a beloved member of the family” in the city.

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