New York City would like a word with your pet sitter

Hey, have you heard of yet? It’s a sharing economy app which allows pet owners to hook up directly with dog walkers and pet sitters in their area. People offering their services are rated by customers and fees tend to be very reasonable when compared to going to a boarding kennel. Think of it as Uber for dog owners. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sure. As long as you’re not in New York City anyway.

In the Big Apple, the city fathers have had just about enough of you scofflaws flouting the municipal regulations and not paying to get a certification and a license to perform such tasks. And now they’re cracking down these dangerous, untrained, freelance er… people who walk dogs for a few bucks. (NY Post)

Occupational licensing laws have proliferated across America — you need government approval in various states to do things like eyebrow-threading, hair-braiding and selling homemade cookies — but this might be one of the most absurd examples yet.

New York City officials appear to be stepping up enforcement of a law that requires pet-sitters to have a kennel license if they are boarding or taking care of a pal’s furry friend. The city’s health code requires a permit for operating a “pet shop, grooming parlor, boarding kennel or training establishment.”

The law says boarding kennels include any “facility other than an animal shelter where animals not owned by the proprietor are sheltered, harbored, maintained, groomed, exercised, fed, or watered in return for a fee.”

The number of “businesses” which require various licenses and fees in most cities is, quite frankly, insane. The truly hard core libertarian among us would probably argue that any business licenses are problematic and a dodge that the government uses to fleece the taxpayer because the free market would eliminate those who perform poorly. But even if you allow that the government has some interest in doing this in the name of protecting consumers there should really be some common sense limits. You might argue that people selling food should be inspected to make sure they aren’t serving up botulism in a bowl and day care centers should only hire caregivers who can pass a background check. But a dog walker or pet sitter? If you’re saying that the task is too difficult to safely handle without certification and licensing, then the vast majority of people shouldn’t be allowed to have pets.

In New York you can be tagged for the same thing if you mow lawns or do general yard work. The big landscaping companies (who generally donate to politicians) like rules like these because they cut down on competition, but how many qualifications do you really need to pick up a shovel and clear the snow off of somebody’s sidewalk? The same can be said for walking dogs or even allowing Fido to crash in your apartment for a few days while the owner is out of town. One might also imagine that the city would be sympathetic to those who are out of work or in debt who want to make a few bucks. One would apparently be wrong.

This is a preposterous cash grab by the municipal government. And I’d be willing to bet that there are some hefty donors somewhere in the background who are benefiting from it as well. But as long as you keep electing municipal leaders who want to demand licenses and fees for every imaginable human activity under the sun, well… we all get the government we deserve.