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NYC Health Department Says Dog-Sitting Services Like Rover Are Illegal

A very good pup at the Westminster Dog Show
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A very good pup at the Westminster Dog Show Scott Heins

A popular service that connects dog owners with freelance dog-walkers and sitters may soon be chased out of the city, thanks to a little-known health code prohibiting unlicensed animal boarding.

According to the Health Department, the rarely enforced law is intended to protect animals from neglect, and "does not apply to the average New Yorker who may pet sit for friends, family, and neighbors." However, online portals for pet-sitting like Rover and DogVacay (which Rover recently acquired), do "facilitate illegal boarding," the spokesperson told Gothamist.

(Full disclosure: I've walked and sat many a good dog using Rover, and am a bit concerned that I've just lost my fallback gig, should this whole blogging thing not work out).

What happens next for these services is unclear at the moment. According to the Daily News, Rover is currently lobbying to overturn the law, after at least two New Yorkers received fines for pet-sitting without a license. The fines start at $1,000, and are typically driven by complaints, according to the Health Department spokesperson.

The tabloid also reports that City Councilman and Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson is in the process of drafting legislation that would overturn the law.

"There are millions of cats and dogs in New York City, and people I think believe they can pet sit or have someone pet sit for them," Johnson told the News. "To have a law on the books that says that's illegal is antiquated and not practical." (The councilman did not respond to a question about whether his bill would apply to Rover and other similar services).

In the meantime, we're still not sure whether or not it's legal to attach a pack of dogs to your Citi Bike and ride around like a charioteer.

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