Going On Vacation? Pet Sitting is Now Illegal in New York

My Yorkshire terrier is now over 15 years old. He’s still full of spunk but tires more than he used to, and gets stressed out more easily too. We used to board him at a cage free day care in town, and he loved it there. But he’s just not able to do it anymore.

Fortunately one of the staff who used to work at the day care — whom he knows and likes — pet sits. So she’ll come stay at our home when we’re on vacation.

It’s a good thing, then, that I don’t live in New York. Because pet sitting is illegal in New York City.

Pet lovers are barking mad over a little-known city rule that makes dog-sitting illegal in New York.

Health Department rules ban anyone from taking money to care for an animal outside a licensed kennel — and the department has warned a popular pet-sitting app that its users are breaking the law.

…The health code bans boarding, feeding and grooming animals for a fee without a kennel license — and says those licenses can’t be issued for private homes.

As the general counsel for the Rover app — which matches consumers with pet sitters — put it, “If you’ve got a 14-year-old getting paid to feed your cats, that’s against the law right now… Most places right now continue to make it easier to watch children than animals, and that doesn’t make any sense.”

You can’t legally have your pet at home, and you certainly can’t trust United Airlines with it, it’s enough to make my sympathize with owners who claim their pets are emotional support animals so the pets can go away with the people and travel in cabin (since airlines otherwise limit the size of the animal, require it to fit under the seat, count it as a carry on, and charge a significant add on fee).

And yes the law has been enforced at least sporadically. Fines start at $1000.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As usual ridiculous laws because they cannot figure out a common sense way to make it illegal for someone to keep 85 dogs in their 600 sf New York City Apt~ We can’t find a common sense approach so we will just make it illegal for anyone to watch a dog that isn’t in a kennel….I’m also guessing that some of the kennel owners have a lobby effort that got this passed. We’re in the same situation, we took our Yorkie to a kennel, left a 24 pack of food, got back and they had only fed her 3 packs in 5 days (she normally eats 3-5 per day) and she had lost around 5 lbs which is a LOT for a small dog. Scared to leave her anywhere now.

  2. Wait so you can’t pay someone to feed your cat while you are away even though the cat is staying in your own apartment? Smells like the big kennels paid off law makers to get this law on the books. I totally agree that people should not be allowed to take animals into their apartment without a license, but a cat or dog sitter? Come on.

  3. It’s the over-licensing of America, a topic often discussed by foreign publications like the Economist but seemingly accepted by compliant locals. Definitely the kennel owners pay a lobbyist to roam city hall to ensure they get protected status. Well, I’m glad the council has solved every single problem in the city.

  4. Pay someone to housesit who doesn’t mind keeping an eye on your pets while you’re gone. Wording of that law in the article states it’s illegal to receive payment for petsitting…loophole….pay someone to watch you house/apt instead.

  5. The impulse to prevent kennels in private homes goes too far here, if it prevents travelers from inviting others into their homes to provide pet care. There’s no way that my sensitive 18-year-old cat is going into a boarding kennel when I travel. So it’s a good thing that I have wonderful friends who “volunteer” to house-sit in order to take delivery of my packages, watch my Netflix, and play my Xbox. The fluffies just happen to keep the house-sitters company 😉

  6. God, I sure hate those stupid liberal politicians in Austin that made it so I can’t buy liquor on a Sunday. Oh, wait…

    I’d rather have liberal politicians make a few mistakes sometimes than a straight up theocracy. Both sides have greedy crooks but at least one side has some good people while the other doesn’t even pretend to care about anything but making billionaires happy. Get it out of your stupid head that all regulations are bad, because we’d be a hell of a lot worse off if we didn’t have any even when some mistakes (like this) are made.

  7. This is full of loopholes. I think of the old ticket scalping deal. I’ll sell you a pencil for $200 and with it you get a free ticket. When I think of powerful lobbies I don’t think of the kennel industry but good for them being creative protectionist thinkers.

  8. Wow.

    I use rover for my 14.5 year old redbone coonhound. She gets a lot more individualized attention than at a kennel. But, on a recent pickup, I did note that there were five small dogs (mine, at 38 pounds, was easily the largest) in a 2 bedroom apartment. The hosts no doubt had some freelance dogs in excess of Rover’s terms and conditions. And that many dogs could easily violate the terms of their lease.

    No doubt someone, somewhere, will turn their home into a squalid kennel on day. And I will not want to live next to that.

  9. It is never okay to falsely claim an animal is needed for emotional support. When people do, it harms people with disabilities who actually need service animals. It is time to bring back integrity to this issue.

    Janice S. Lintz, CEO/Founder Hearing Access & Innovations

  10. @annie close. Do NOT pay them cash. Checks can be traced etc. I had my niece watch my house while away for 2 weeks to make it appear I was home. She watered the plants, feed the fish, took in the mail, ate my food, ate the $50 of junk food I bought just for her and she took the $300 of gift cards that was left on the table next to the thank you note.

    She did not “pet sit” nor did I pay her.

  11. I’m with JD here.

    If your Yorkshire Terrier is “still full of spunk”, give the UK a very wide berth as you are probably already on some kind of register.

    This is definitely a case of two countries divided by a common language. Which Coca Cola discovered when they lazily used their US “bottled spunk” adverts when they released Dasani water in the UK, and then had to withdraw it from the market forever when they were laughed out of the country!

  12. “You can’t legally have your pet at home” [if you’re not there] — I suppose this is what you mean.
    TomRI recounts an excellent solution. It his case it was his niece who was house sitting. Some of my friends have other friends house sit. They tell me that to their knowledge this practice isn’t illegal. The fact that their two dogs remain at home is purely coincidental.

    They also assert that some New Yorkers have so little to do or are so puritanical that they sit around thinking up ways to punish their fellow citizens who have pets they don’t want to put in kennels.

  13. Haven’t they outlawed AirBnB’s? Maybe this was to close a loophole where people were saying their renters were pet sitters. But they could have solved that by saying no more than $30/day could change hands for pet sitting.

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