For professional dog walkers in San Francisco, eight may have to be enough.
A measure before the Board of Supervisors regulating dog walkers would cap the number of dogs they can walk at any given time in a city park to eight, plus one personal dog.
The bill, proposed by Supervisor Scott Weiner, also mandates that all commercial dog walkers undergo training, ensure their vehicles are safe for transporting animals, carry liability insurance and pay to obtain a permit. The permits could cost up to $250 with an annual renewal of up to $100.
There are currently no regulations concerning the approximately 500 professional dog walkers in San Francisco, a city where pets famously outnumber children by a wide margin.
There is, on the other hand, a Dog Walking and Professional Services Referral List operated by the office of Animal Care and Control for any dog walker who voluntarily signs a pledge to not take out more than six dogs at a time, pick up all their dog poop and make sure all the pooches they walk stay current in their vaccinations. The city lists nearly 70 professional dog walkers who have signed up for the program.
The legislation is supported by the advocacy group SF Dog and the San Francisco Professional Dogwalkers Association, whose president, Angela Gardener, told SF Appeal, "For the many professional dog walkers who are well-trained, who know how to care for dogs, and who respect the city property they use, this legislation will legitimate them and will require dog walkers who lack training or skills to get training."
When Weiner first proposed the ordinance earlier this year, the maximum number of dogs was capped at seven; however, at the behest of the city's Small Business Commission, the board's Land Use and Economic Development Committee unanimously voted to increase that number by one pup.
The San Francisco Examiner reported that Weiner supported the increase after hearing from a number of local dog walkers who worried that limiting them at six would be devastating to their businesses. "[Weiner] said about 80 percent of the feedback he received supported eight dogs, while 10 percent wanted more and 10 percent wanted six dogs."
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is technically under the purview of the National Park Service and outside the jurisdiction of any regulations passed by the Board of Supervisors, recently issued guidelines limiting the number of dogs a dog walker can walk to six. The GGNRA is also in the process of crafting a controversial new dog policy that could ban off-leash dogs from popular hound havens like Fort Funston and Crissy Field.
Even with these new limitations, there are some who worry that they don't go far enough. The San Francisco Chronicle reported:
Rebecca Katz, director of the city's Animal Care and Control Department, the agency that would be responsible for overseeing the permits, said she was concerned that eight or nine dogs would be pushing the limit when it comes to a dog walker's ability to properly manage the dogs and clean up after them, but said she would defer to the supervisors to make the final call.
The legislation is expected to go before the full board for a vote early next year.