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Tag: dogwalking

NY council member calls for Wag probe

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Wag, an Uber-like app that pairs dogs with walkers, is getting more heat in New York, with city council members calling for an investigation into its dismal safety record.

Lawmakers and animal-rights advocates say Wag walkers have lost as least seven New York dogs since 2015 — four in the last two months.

“I have reached out to the Department of Consumer Affairs to investigate Wag immediately,” Councilman Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn), a former animal-welfare advocate. “I feel absolutely terrible for these animal lovers and what they’ve been through. Clearly, Wag’s vetting process is a joke. Maybe this kind of thing flies in West Hollywood but it doesn’t fly here in New York City.”

According to the New York Post, dogs who escaped from Wag walkers in February included an Upper East Side Chihuahua named Norman, who slipped out of his harness and is still missing, and a goldendoodle named Simba who darted from his walker and was hit by a car.

New York City requires dogsitters to be licensed, but there are no rules governing walkers.

“There aren’t any regulations and there should be,” said Manhattan animal-rights lawyer Susan Chana Lask. “You can’t be the ‘Uber for Dogs’ without some kind of licensing — we already know what happened with Uber.”

Wag says its walkers must pass a background check, complete a rigorous online dog-safety and dog-knowledge test and attend an in-person orientation.

The Post reported that their are rumblings among state lawmakers as well that Wag might be worthy of some scrutiny.

“There’s a good possibility we may need some extra regulations and guidelines,” said state Sen. James Tedisco, who represents Schenectady.

(Photo: Teddy, a dog that went temporarily missing while under the care of Wag in December 2017; Facebook)

Rover.com gobbles up DogVacay

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The country’s largest online pet sitting and dog walking company has bought out the second largest.

Rover.com, based in Seattle, was already top dog, but by acquiring DogVacay, based in Los Angeles, it becomes one offering pet owners access to more than 100,000 “five-star” pet walkers, boarders and sitters across the country.

Together, the two companies generated over $150 million in bookings in 2016.

The combined company will keep the Rover name, and will remain based in Seattle, Geekwire.com reports.

Terms of the all-stock deal were not revealed.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 22 of DogVacay’s 100-plus employees will be laid off.

The combined company, which will have 250 employees, will be led by Rover.com CEO Aaron Easterly. DogVacay CEO Aaron Hirschhorn will join the board of directors

Both companies provide customers with access to independent pet-sitters and dog-walkers, and keep about 20 percent of the fees those contractors charge clients. Pet owners also pay a service fee of up to 7% with each booking.

“Rover and DogVacay are both made up of dog people on a mission to enable everyone to experience the love and joy of a pet,” Easterly said in a news release. “Together, we can accomplish our goals quicker and make an even bigger impact. Plus, this partnership will enable us to pick up engineering velocity, bring new products to market faster and invest even more aggressively in building the best tools for our sitters and dog walkers.”

Chilling out with some golden retrievers

Finding the heat a little oppressive?

This video is guaranteed to cool you down, refresh your soul if you’re a dog lover, and fill you with joy if you’ve got a soft spot for golden retrievers.

Kim Sirett, a dog walker in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, took a dozen of her clients dogs and her own golden to the Nainamo River for a swim day earlier this month.

“I grew up with Golden Retrievers and they are all about swimming. If I have five of them on a hike, they congregate at the water and just stare at me to throw a stick,” said Sirett, who operates Pooch Pack Adventures.

“I just thought it would be such an easy, fun day if I had only Golden Retrievers on my hike — all my troubles would go away.”

It’s the fifth year she has organized an annual swim for the dogs, and the largest one so far, according to the Vancouver Sun

She loaded the retrievers, and one yellow Lab, into her van, drove to the river and released them.

Sirett, who specializes in 2-hour off-leash adventure hikes, worked as an executive in the pet industry for 10 years before ditching that job and becoming a dog walker.

She posted a video of the special adventure on YouTube this week.

If you’re impressed with how she leash-lessly controlled a dozen dogs, check out what she did last year:

To raise awareness for victims of domestic violence, she organized “40 Dogs on a Log for a Cause.”

More than $3,000 was raised for Haven Pets and Families. The program helps pay for the care of pets whose owners are afraid to leave abusive situations and seek shelter because they would have to leave their pets behind.

Uber-like dog walking app takes a hit after walker loses a dog in Brooklyn

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Wag!, a tech startup that touts itself as an Uber for dog walkers, has its tail between its legs this week.

A dog walker hired through the new app that connects pet owners with walkers lost a Brooklyn couple’s Chihuahua, who subsequently was hit by a car and killed.

Morgan Stuart and Mischa Golebiewski had a regular dog walker, also through Wag!, but when that dog walker called in sick on Nov. 18, another Wag! walker was assigned.

The woman was supposed to take out the couple’s oldest dog, Chicken, and check on Duckie, but apparently she either misunderstood the instructions, or Duckie slipped out of the building.

The couple said they cautioned the new walker that Duckie, who was adopted two months earlier, was fearful of strangers and would probably be too anxious to go for a walk.

“We had a text conversation explaining the situation,” Golebiewski told the New York Daily News. “She said she could do it and was comfortable.”

The California-based company claims on its website that all their dog walkers are “certified” and “rigorously screened/vetted.”

duckie2In this case, Duckie’s owners say it took an hour for the company to contact them after Duckie was lost, lessening the possibility of her being quickly found.

The couple spent the next seven days searching for the dog.

Wag! executives contributed to the search, calling upon other dog walkers to help.

They also installed motion detecting cameras in nearby Prospect Park and set traps near where Duckie had been spotted, the Daily News reported.

“We do have a plan in place in the .00001% chance something like this can happen,” said Wag! co-founder Joshua Viner.

According to Wag! representatives, Wag! co-founder Jason Meltzer flew in from Los Angeles to search the park for a day, and the company’s New York manager spent 18 hours a day in the park for a week.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Duckie’s owners got a call from a veterinarian saying the dog had been fatally struck by a car on Seeley Street, near the edge of the park.

“We feel terrible. It hurts us,” Viner said, offering an apology that sounded pretty self-centered. “This literally stopped my week.”

(Photos courtesy of Morgan Stuart and Mischa Golebiewski)

Dog parking? Baguetteaboutit

They may be well-intentioned and address a real issue, but these parking crates for dogs that have appeared on the streets of New York worry me.

The woman behind them hopes to have 100 of them in place in Brooklyn by next spring, place them throughout New York City and, eventually, other cities across the country.

It works like this: You sign up for a membership, and receive a member card in the mail that unlocks the temperature controlled doghouse. Then you’re billed through the mail at a rate of 20 cents per minute.

Chelsea Brownridge told Fox 5 the idea grew out of her own concerns about leaving her dog Winston tied up when she has to run into a store.

Of course, that’s a troublesome practice, too — and more than a few dogs have been stolen after being left tied outside stores in New York, and elsewhere.

Dog parkers are now in test mode outside of two Fort Greene businesses, including Baguetteaboutit on Vanderbilt and DeKalb, where a spokesman welcomed the idea.

“A lot of our customers will open up the door and yell out to us, ‘Can you bring me out a sandwich? Can you bring me a menu? I don’t want to leave my dog.’ And we’ll accommodate them. This gives them an opportunity to take care of their dog while they come in and take care of themselves.”

Seems to me taking steps to accommodate dog-walking customers outdoors would be an easier solution — as would people leaving their dogs at home when they have the need to shop.

My main objections though come from being claustrophobic, and a technophobe.

The dog parking crate reminds me a little bit of those newspaper boxes (which you can probably get a pretty good deal on nowadays) — and simple as they were they often malfunctioned.

Dogs can see out of the boxes through a small plastic window, but the boxes still seem uncomfortably confining. And anything that is “temperature controlled” can see its temperature go out of control.

On top of that, anyone who has had to return to the hotel lobby three or more times to get one of those key cards rejiggered — so it actually opens the door to their room — knows those cards can’t be trusted.

What’s going to happen when a dog owner can’t get his dog out of the box?

An app is in the works that will allow customers to reserve boxes, but they otherwise will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Will New Yorkers end up fighting over them too, as they do parking spaces and taxi cabs? Will Uber dog parking boxes surface, charging only 10 cents a minute?

If a key card is able to open any dog parking crate in the city, might thieves just maybe figure that out and sign up for membership?

There are just too many questions. It might be easier to just make all business establishments dog friendly.

Until then, always walk with another friend when out with your dog, or leave the dog home, or — difficult as it may be — skip the baguette.

Another nomination to the Hall of Shame: Dog walker tried to cover up heat deaths

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Yesterday I suggested, half-seriously, that a Dog Walker Hall of Shame be established, and that an aspiring actor in Los Angeles who left a client’s dog in his parked Jaguar be made a charter member.

It only took a few minutes, once I put a link to the post on my Facebook page, for one reader to nominate what she thought was an even more deserving candidate.

(I have nothing against dog walkers; I am one. But I’ve always felt — even as a journalist — that it’s up to members of a profession to help weed out the bad seeds, or at least shine a spotlight on the dangerously dim bulbs certain occupation sometimes attract.)

Last Tuesday a dog walker in Langley, British Columbia, reported to police that six dogs were stolen from the back of her truck, parked just outside an off-leash area. She said she went to the bathroom and returned 10 minutes later to find all six dogs were gone.

That led to a week-long search — by authorities, doggie detectives, and the individual families who owned the pets.

In a heartbreaking development, police now say the dogs weren’t stolen, but died of heat exhaustion in the dog walker’s truck. Police are looking into charging the woman with public mischief, according to the National Post. The SPCA is also investigating.

The bodies of the dogs — five belonging to clients, one belonging to the dog walker — were found in Abbotsford, police said.

Alesha and Al MacLellan, of Petsearchers Canada, who were assisting in the search for the dogs, said the dog walker, Emma Paulsen, admitted to them that the dogs died.

She “disclosed that on May 13th, all six dogs were in the back of her vehicle with the side vent windows open and water available, as she had done hundreds of times,” Alesha MacLellan said. “Sometime during the outing, all six dogs perished from heatstroke. Upon arriving at the location and seeing her beloved charges deceased, she went into a blind panic at the thought of notifying the families and the possible repercussions.”

Initially, Paulsen said of the disappearance of the dogs, “It’s just unimaginable. If somebody thought they were doing the right thing by saving theses dogs out of a hot truck, I can understand this perspective. But enough already, bring them home. Everybody’s just tortured at this point.”

The missing dogs, dubbed the Brookswood 6, gained widespread media coverage in B.C.  Money was donated for rewards, and there was a rally for them at a Langley dog park.

The dog walker’s own dog, Salty, was among the deceased animals, according to The Province. The other dogs were Mia, a 15-month-old pit bull; Oscar, a six-year-old Rottweiler-husky mix; Buddy, a Boston terrier; Molly, a five-year-old German shepherd-blue heeler cross; and Teemo, a poodle-Bouvier mix.

The owners of the pets were devastated to learn that the dogs they thought were missing were dead, Mrs. MacLellan said.

“There’s always that sliver of hope. Until we talked to them today, we were also hopeful that if something bad had happened to some of the dogs, maybe one or two were hidden away somewhere safe. It’s pretty devastating that all six have perished.”

“Each year we attend hundreds of calls to rescue dogs in distress in hot cars,” said SPCA spokeswoman Lorie Chortyk. “Animals can suffer brain damage and death in as little as 10 minutes in a hot car, even with windows left open. The SPCA issues this warning repeatedly in warm weather in the hopes of averting such tragedies but sadly, we still continue to see animals left in hot cars.”

You’d think a professional dog walker would know better.

Louise Scott, who owned Molly, said she’d been hopeful her dog might return. She learned what happened from a neighbor, whose dog was also among the six.

“They said they’re all dead,” said Scott, 80. “I’m too upset to say anything. And I’m very, very mad. Angry is the word.”

(Photo: National Post)

How many dogs can a dog walker walk?

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How many dogs should a dog walker walk at once?

After half a century as an amateur dog walker, and three months as a professional one, I’m prepared to give a qualified answer to that question.

It depends on the dogs. It depends on the dog walker. But three at a time should be plenty.

Many a dog walker might scoff at that — and view the idea of limiting the number of dogs a person can walk at one time as cutting into their profit margin.

It would be nice if dog walking was the one industry in the world not obsessed with upping its profits. But it’s not.

Many dog walkers balked when San Francisco — one of very few cities that regulates professional dog walkers — suggested limiting them to walking no more than eight dogs at once.

I can’t imagine doing that.

I can’t even imagine walking all three of the small dogs I walk for residents of at an assisted living facility all at once.

bgdogs 042Their leashes would get tangled, I’d trip and fall, and, given a couple of them tend to snarf up anything that resembles food — including Punkin, the handsome Boston Terrier to your left — I wouldn’t be able to monitor all three at once.

So — even though it takes three times as long — I opt for walking them one at a time. Bean counters and efficiency experts would say that’s stupid of me.

But then again, I’m 60, and not as agile and speedy, maybe, as once I was.

Here’s a news item that came out of Mill Valley, just up the road from San Francisco, this week:

A 71-year-old dog walker who fell more than 200 feet down a ravine in California was found by rescuers — with all six dogs she was walking huddled around her.

Carol Anderson fell into the ravine near a remote fire road during a storm Tuesday in Mill Valley, KTVU reported.

It’s not clear from news reports whether all six dogs fell with her, but she did manage to hold on to her cell phone during the tumble, and use it to contact one of her dog walking clients.

A Mill Valley Fire Department official said Anderson told the client, “I fell down, I don’t know where I’m at. I have the dogs. I’m dizzy. I’m nauseous, come help me.”

Authorities were able to track her down through her cell phone signals. The first rescuers to arrive found all six dogs curled up around her, which authorities said probably protected her from the cold. Firefighters climbed into the ravine and hoisted Anderson back up.

Anderson was hospitalized in fair condition. All the dogs were returned safely to their owners

It wasn’t the first time the dog walker has run into some bad luck.

In 2007, three of seven dogs Anderson had been walking — all at once — all got sick and died, just hours later, from what turned out to be strychnine poisoning intended to exterminate gophers.

After a morning walk on the Alta Trail above Marin City, the three dogs experienced high fevers and seizures. Two died at an area pet hospital, and a third was dead on arrival.

Walking six, seven, eight or more dogs at once strikes me as asking for trouble — no matter how well behaved the dogs are, or how experienced and physically fit the dog walker is.

I don’t think the rest of the country needs to go all San Francisco and regulate the industry. Dog owners can do that themselves, simply by asking, or insisting if necessary, that their dog not be walked in a group the size of a baseball team, or jury.

The dog walker who refuses to comply with such a request is probably more of a money seeker than a dog lover and may be better off avoided anyway.

(Top photo, a dog walker in San Francisco, by Mike Koozmin/ San Francisco Examiner; bottom photo by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)