Supervisor Scott Wiener pitches law regulating dog walkers in San Francisco parks 

Commercial dog walkers in San Francisco’s parks would be subject to an annual business license fee of up to $250 and be limited to walking seven dogs at a time, under new legislation being introduced Tuesday by Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Handlers who walk four or more dogs at a time for payment would also be required to obtain permits, get training, carry “required equipment,” ensure that dogs are licensed, carry an ID badge and prove that their vehicles are suitable for transporting dogs.

“There are many responsible and professional dog walkers in San Francisco, and we need to ensure that the few irresponsible dog walkers don’t give the many good ones a bad name,” Wiener said.

Wiener said some of the details of the licenses will be decided by the Department of Animal Care and Control, but the training could include 20 hours of etiquette and animal first-aid classes, or a 40-hour apprenticeship with a permitted dog walker. Wiener said any dog walker who has been working with a regular business license for three years will be grandfathered into the program and won’t need to go through the rigmarole.

The new regulations would apply to those who walk dogs in The City’s parks, plus property managed by the Port of San Francisco and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. A press release from Wiener’s office said the supervisor worked with a “broad coalition” of park and animal organizations over a number of years to craft the legislation that professional dog walkers are supporting, along with the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“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,” said Angela Gardener, a well-known activist representing the San Francisco Professional Dogwalkers Association.

Wiener’s legislation was crafted, in part, out of concern that federal parks regulators were looking to tighten leash laws at open spaces like Crissy Field, Fort Funston and Baker Beach, which could divert a large number dog walkers to San Francisco’s municipal parks instead. But the supervisor said the new legislation has more to do with longstanding issues separate from what happens with the federal parks.

Wiener doesn’t own a dog, but he grew up with canines and said he has nothing against them.

“I have a cat,” Wiener said. “I live in a tiny place.”

If passed, The City would begin enforcing the law in April and violators would be subject to fines up to $500.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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