While the gig economy might be great for people who want to make extra money driving around strangers or renting out apartments to tourists, it isn’t necessarily great for others — like licensed cab drivers or tenants who get evicted so their landlords can make more money. This why many cities have been cracking down on unlicensed service providers, like rideshare apps Uber and Lyft, and short-term rental app Air BnB.
This isn’t just an American phenomenon, either. It’s been happening in cities like Barcelona and Hong Kong, and in India in general. The reasons pretty much come down to a combination of protecting users from what are basically unregulated services, protecting the aforementioned tenants and cab drivers from economic loss, and, to be honest, protecting tax income for the local jurisdictions — but that’s a standard reason for just about any law or regulation.
Now, New York has set its sights on another gig economy business: dog sitting apps.
It’s actually not a new law. Article 161 of the health code prohibits anyone without a kennel license from charging money to sit pets. The Catch-22 is that the law also bans private homes from having a kennel license, meaning that it’s illegal for people to use businesses like DogVacay or their new owner, Rover, and authorities have issued fines starting at $1,000 per violation.
Last October, the city also asked DogVacay to require sitters to verify that they have a license before they can use the service, although the company has reportedly not yet complied with that demand — and Rover lists over 40,000 sitters in the city, starting at $15 per night. While they do state that dog sitters should follow their state and local laws, they do not give any indication of what those laws are, so it’s up to you to do your research if you want to board other people’s pets for a fee.
However, as Huffinton Post points out, this does not ban all private pet-sitting in the city. While you can’t technically open your home for boarding other people’s, nothing prohibits you from paying someone else to come into your residence to take care of your pets, licensed or not.
On the bright side, Health Department enforcement is complaint-driven, so as long as there are no complaints there are no citations. There’s incentive for would-be dog sitters to be very nice to all of their neighbors! Also, Rover.com is lobbying City Council health committee Chairman Corey Johnson for a change in the law, and he is reportedly very receptive to an update.
As reported in the NY Daily News, Johnson said, “To have a law on the books that says (unlicensed pet-sitting is) illegal is antiquated and not practical.”
Of course, New Yorkers are nothing if not resourceful, as seen by the rather hilarious solution to a recent ruling that said that dogs could only be brought on the subway if they could fit into a bag that their owner could carry. The goal was to limit such travelers to smaller dogs. Instead, New Yorkers just got bigger bags — and sometimes avoided that whole carrying part in the first place.
And not that it’s a solution to the dog-sitting question, but we couldn’t avoid pointing out one enterprising dog walker, who is using New York’s Citi Bike program to optimize his business and bring pack walking to a whole new level. So if the law doesn’t change, look for locals to come up with unique and creative workarounds for the ban.
Is private dog-sitting for pay regulated where you are? Or are you a dog-sitter who has had problems with local regulations? Tell us about it in the comments!