San Francisco: Dog-Eat-Dog City

Nothing is free in life–not even fresh air with man’s best friend. Starting on July 1, anyone walking more than four dogs in San Francisco will have to buy a $240 license, and pay an additional $100 per year for renewal. That alone should give one “paws.”  But the new regulations don’t stop there. They also forbid walking more than eight dogs with leashes longer than six feet, and require dog walkers to complete a 20-hour training course and hands-on training in subjects ranging from canine behavior, local laws and regulations, dog park etiquette, and canine first-aid.

This training course and further regulations require dog walkers to have “appropriate dog walking safety equipment” that is readily accessible. Animal Care and Control lists a cell phone, first aid kit, and rabies and licensing info among the necessary safety equipment, and even go as far to say that a smart phone is ideal. Furthermore, if enforcement officers suspect that a dog walker’s vehicle is unsafe for transporting animals, the dog walker must allow the officer to inspect the vehicle.

Some professional dog walkers’ income depends on walking several dogs at one time and this new law threatens their chances to earn a living. And the law makes no exceptions for the occasional dog walker. Will the high school student who is trying to make a few bucks over the weekend be required to buy a $240 license to walk her neighbor’s five shih tzus? Under current law—yes.  Pooches are hurt by these cumbersome rules as well; some theories of socialization suggest that dogs adapt better with larger crowds.

A few dog walkers might be tempted to defy the licensing requirements. But they should be cautious. A third violation in a period of twelve months could result in a $1,000 fine or a year in jail. Like all hard working Americans, San Francisco dog walkers are just trying to make their way in this dog-eat-dog world. They shouldn’t also have to worry about their government’s bite.

— Bethany Pickett
Bethany Pickett is a Maffucci Fellow at the Institute for Justice

Sign up to receive IJ's biweekly digital magazine, Liberty & Law along with breaking updates about our fight to protect the rights of all Americans.