Monday, March 05, 2007

Dog Walkers Need to Walk the Legal Line

The City of San Francisco is seriously considering imposing stricter regulations on dog walkers. Reports of lost mutts, verbal abuse, dogs being left in poorly ventilated vehicles for long periods of time, and letting pooches roam without leashes through city parks without supervision are some of the complaints that are causing local politicians to bark for tighter laws.

The city is thinking of making dog walkers get a special business license and setting limits on the number of dogs pet care providers can walk at once. It’s about time. We had trouble with a dog walking service a while back when they got into the habit of short-walking our dogs. The service claimed that they would walk our dogs every day for a minimum of 20-30 minutes, but our neighbors told us that they saw them walking our two dogs to the corner and back on some days. We got upset because we were paying these people $25 a day to walk the dogs. A ten-minute walk only makes a dog hyper. It’s like teasing the animal and just creates anxiety.

The dog walking industry in San Francisco has operated for too long with little oversight. There are an estimated 150 to 300 dog walkers in SF and getting into the business is as easy as saying you’re a dog walker. I could put an ad on Craig’s list tomorrow and get customers without any problem.

There are tons of people in this town who have dogs but work 40-60 hours a week, so they’re in desperate need of someone to walk their dog during the day. People think it’s an easy gig to walk dogs, but it’s not. You have to develop a rapport with the animals and you have to know how to walk them safely. You also have to pick up their poo, which is something many dog walkers don’t do. A responsible dog walking service has insurance, trains their walkers and requires its employees to carry first-aid kits at all times.

Dog walkers can make good money – I know one guy who makes around $50,000 a year walking mostly rich people’s dogs – but he is really good at what he does. He gives the dogs he walks long, fun walks, runs with them and really builds relationships with them. He’s not just a dog walker; he’s a canine concierge. In many cases, the dogs start liking him more than their masters!

Regulating dog walkers is a smart move. If people are out there doing a lousy, unprofessional job, they need to be put out of business. Maybe putting them to sleep is going a bit too far, but making sure they’re running a safe, dog-sensitive operation is something any pet owner living in this city surely needs and deserves.

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