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Pet-friendly dating sites match up people, pooches

Kris Rotonda, who founded YouMustLoveDogsDating.com, posed with his girlfriend, Denise Fernandez, and three of his four dogs in Clearwater, Fla.

Rebecca Brittain/Associated Press via Kris Rotonda

Kris Rotonda, who founded YouMustLoveDogsDating.com, posed with his girlfriend, Denise Fernandez, and three of his four dogs in Clearwater, Fla.

LOS ANGELES — On these dating sites, a passion for pets will help you find more than just puppy love.

Sites like PetsDating.com and YouMustLoveDogsDating.com have found a new niche as singles flock to computers and smartphones to find relationships, connecting dog owners to potential mates who enjoy long walks in the dog park and slobbery canine kisses as much as they do.

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Many dating sites cater to religious, cultural, and political preferences, but won’t focus as heavily on interests like pets, music, or travel, said Karen North, a professor of social media at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism.

‘‘If you find somebody with the same lifestyle passion, you don’t have to start out at square one,’’ North said.

When Joanie Pelzer signed up with a dog-friendly online dating service a few years ago, she was honest about her Chihuahua — he likes people more than other dogs, craves attention, steals food, and can’t stand to ride in the backseat of a car.

Even a man who loved animals as much as she did couldn’t keep up with her dog’s quirks. On their first date, her Chihuahua, Hubbell, stole the man’s breakfast as they drove from New York City to Long Island. They only had one date after that.

‘‘I still wonder if Hubbell didn’t have something to do with that,’’ said Pelzer, 47, an actress who runs her own social media company and met the man on PetsDating.com.

‘‘Dogs on first dates are amazing icebreakers,’’ said Kris Rotonda, who last year started up YouMustLoveDogsDating.com, which now has 2 million members. ‘‘You find out right off the bat how everyone in a relationship will fit in.’’

But other veterans of the dating-service industry say focusing on a canine connection only adds an extra hurdle.

‘‘When you consider how challenging it already is to find someone who offers what you are seeking in a romantic partner, and who seeks what you are offering, and where there is also mutual chemistry, and the timing is right . . . you have to wonder who in their right mind would want to make it even more challenging by insisting on canine chemistry,’’ said Trish McDermott, who spent 10 years as the dating expert and spokeswoman for Match.com.

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