Regulating Commercial Dog Walkers in San Francisco

For at least the past 10 years San Francisco has been discussing ways to regulate commercial dog walkers who use the City’s parks. In early 2012 San Francisco added Article 39, Commercial Dog Walkers, to its Health Code with the intent that the regulations would become effective on January 1, 2013.

Article 39 sets forth rules pertaining to the number of dogs a commercial dog walker can have in a public park (no more than 8); the training a commercial dog walker must have; how commercial dog walkers are to transport dogs; the insurance they need to have; and the cost of a permit ($240 the first year and $100 a year renewal fee).

As you can imagine, many of the City’s commercial dog walkers have reacted with horror to the idea that they are going to be regulated by the City and have to pay to use the City’s parks for their private business venture. Now I understand that small businesses generally are not huge fans of government regulation. But there are times when regulation is necessary. Very few small businesses are allowed to use a public resource, like a City park, for private gain without having to pay for access to the public resource (think of it as a private rafting company operating in a national park).

I recently went to a park during the business day and was stunned by the number of commercial dog walkers there.  It seemed as if every SUV and pick-up truck in San Francisco was there, and many of these walkers had 10 or more dogs.

Now in some ways this might be viewed as a brick & mortar business vs. an internet business or a restaurant vs. a food truck issue.  I have fixed costs associated with my buildings at both our pet care locations, need to have insurance, need to comply with health and safety codes, building codes, zoning codes (frankly the list for what I “need” to run my business legally is pretty endless) and commercial dog walkers haven’t had to comply with pretty much anything – so in some ways I’m not too devastated that they too might be subject to some regulation. More importantly, assuming that the regulations have a basis in health and safety (both for the dogs and for the parks) then I think some regulation is a good thing.  Sadly, as currently designed, all the money collected from the permit fees is going to San Francisco Animal Care & Control to cover their costs of issuing the permit and none is slated for enforcement or, more importantly, protecting and restoring our City parks.

The public discussion on the rules is just starting and the fur is flying!  What do you think?  Should the City regulate commercial dog walkers?

Thanks for reading!