S.F. commission collars dog walkers with rules

A city commission has approved new regulations to crackdown on the dog walking industry following reports of abuse ranging from poor supervision to using poorly ventilated or unsafe cars.

San Francisco’s growing dog walking industry has gone unchecked for years, but new rules approved by the Animal Control and Welfare Commission would require permits, vehicle inspections and proof of insurance and set a limit on the number of dogs walked at atime.

Advocates of the regulations say they will weed out the bad and inexperienced dog walkers to the benefit of the dogs and their owners.

“A lot of professional dog walkers are very good at their job and they want to legitimize the business,” Animal Control and Welfare Commissioner Laurie Kennedy-Routhier said. She said some people who get into dog walking treat it a like a “fly-by-night career,” when it does take a certain level of expertise.

The commission has received reports of dogs that were lost, verbally abused, left in poorly ventilated cars and found roaming in parks unsupervised.

With no regulations in place, it’s unclear how many dog walkers — defined as someone who walks three or more dogs for compensation — there are, but industry workers and city officials have estimated at least 130 and possibly as many as 300.

Nancy Stafford, co-chairwoman of the Professional Dog Walkers Association, said its members, about 100 local dog walkers, support the rules, but some disagree with the limit set on the number of dogs that can be walked.

The commission on Aug. 7 approved the regulations that all dog walkers be required to obtain a permit (costing $100 or $200 depending on the number of employees in the business), have their cars inspected by the Animal Care and Control Department, show proof of insurance — which would cost an average of $250 annually — carry a first-aid kit and walk a maximum of eight dogs at a time.

The regulations require approval by the Board of Supervisors. The next step, however, is a public hearing at the Recreation and Park Commission, according to Kennedy-Routhier.

Rose Dennis, spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department, said unregulated dog walkers have been a problem at parks, where they sometimes fail to control the dogs or clean up after them. She also said it is a business that has for years been “making moneyoff of public land without paying for it.”

It is estimated that dog walkers can earn between $30,000 and $60,000 a year, and generally charge between $15 and $20 per walk.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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