New S.F. dog-walker law to be enforced after holiday weekend 

click to enlarge Professional dog walkers who walk more than four dogs at a time must now obtain a $240 permit and clear training requirements.
  • Professional dog walkers who walk more than four dogs at a time must now obtain a $240 permit and clear training requirements.

San Francisco's new dog-walking law went into effect at the beginning of the month, but enforcement won't start until after the holiday weekend, a Recreation and Park Department spokesman said.

The new law requires permits for some dog walkers, limits the number of dogs walked at one time and requires that vehicles used for business be inspected, among other restrictions.

Under the law, permitting dog walkers is the responsibility of Animal Care and Control while enforcement is up to Rec and Park.

Animal Care and Control has inspected about 100 vehicles since May, issuing 45 vehicle dog-walking placards and 45 dog-walking permits, said agency Capt. Vicky Guldbech.

"To only have 100 show up so far and only 45 permits, that's a very low number," Guldbech said.

City officials had estimated there were as many as 500 dog walkers.

"Our park patrol unit will begin the process of enforcement after the holiday weekend," Rec and Park spokesman Elton Pon said. "Officers will be trained on the new rules and enforcement will begin shortly after."

Pon said the officers will respond to reported violations and do periodic site checks. He noted that initially officers will take an educational approach at the outset, followed by citations.

It may be challenging for the department to keep eyes on the hundreds of dog walkers. Pon said there are a total of 11 officers, with plans to add six more, and three supervisors within the department, which allows for between two to four officers on duty at any one time to patrol the 220 parks.

The long-in-the-making dog-walker law was passed by the Board of Supervisors more than a year ago after Supervisor Scott Wiener shepherded it through the legislative process, navigating the fierce dog politics of San Francisco, where there are more dogs than children.

The law requires that anyone walking four or more dogs for compensation must obtain a permit, which costs $240 initially and $100 for annual renewals. No one can walk more than eight dogs at a time. Vehicles must be inspected for certain standards prescribed in the law and have proof of $1 million liability insurance. Dog walkers also must undergo 20 hours of training or 40 hours of apprentice work unless they have been in business for three or more years.

Some opposition persists. Phoenix Asher Featherstone, formerly known as Elisa Baker, helped defeat a similar proposal in 2007 and had threatened to file for an injunction to try and block the law, which she has not done. She said The City has missed an opportunity to raise more revenue for the park system by charging so little for the permits and has suggested a sliding scale of up to $600 to generate more money for parks.

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