Last month, I introduced legislation to provide a regulatory framework for one of the most important professions in San Francisco – professional dogwalkers who use city parks and other property. This idea has been discussed in San Francisco for almost a decade, and years ago, the Animal Welfare Commission recommended its enactment.
For many of the approximately one-third of households in San Francisco that have dogs, access to professional dogwalking services is the difference between being able to have a dog and not have a dog, or the difference between having a happy dog and a dog that is cooped up all day. We need to promote and help this profession, for the quality of life of so many of our residents.
A significant majority of dogwalkers do a terrific job. A minority, not so much. We’ve all seen the proverbial reckless dogwalker who comes into a park with 15 dogs, unleashes the dogs, makes little effort to control them, and doesn’t clean up after them. This behavior drives the good dogwalkers crazy – it gives everyone a bad name.
My legislation will help consumers know who the qualified dogwalkers are, will protect our city parks from over-use, and will provide a governmental stamp of approval for the many qualified, indeed highly competent, dogwalkers.
First, the legislation will require dogwalkers to obtain a permit from the City. To be eligible for the permit, the dogwalker will need to show that he or she has either been a dogwalker with a business license for more than three years, gone through a training program for 20 hours, or apprenticed with an experienced dogwalker for 40 hours.
Second, the dogwalker will need to comply with basic safety standards for transporting and walking dogs. The dogwalker’s vehicle will need to be certified as being dog-safe. That doesn’t mean that dogs will have to be individually crated. But, it does mean that the car will need to provide, for example, adequate ventilation as well as appropriate anti-slip material so that dogs aren’t sliding around too much. It also means that dogwalkers will have to have appropriate equipment, such as basic first-aid materials.
Third, the legislation will limit to 7 the number of dogs that dogwalkers can walk at one time in city parks and other public property, given that, with few exceptions, it is extremely difficult to control larger numbers of dogs. Yes, there are some highly competent dogwalkers who are able to control more dogs, but in the view of many, most dogwalkers cannot do so effectively. This is the most discussed part of the legislation. For years, a debate has raged between those wanting to limit the number of dogs to 6 and those advocating for 8. When I introduced the legislation, I compromised at 7. We will continue to have dialogue about the appropriate number. My goal is certainly not to harm dogwalkers’ ability to earn a living and to charge affordable rates to their clients.
I’ve moved forward with this legislation in a transparent and collaborative manner. I worked closely with several dogwalker groups, dog owner groups, the SPCA, Neighborhood Parks Council, and the affected city departments. The Small Business Commission voted to recommend the proposal. I continue to be open to feedback.
Scott Wiener represents District 8 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. More information at www.scottwiener.com, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.