The dog walking community is hurting across the country -- almost everyone with a leash-for-hire is losing customers under the pandemic ... and it's forcing some of them to get adventurous.
Dog walking companies in L.A., NYC, San Francisco and Seattle all tell us the same thing -- business is tanking, down as much as 50% in some places ... and some have shut down altogether.
One of those is The Dog Walking Network in NYC. Manger Megan O'Leary says business dropped from 120 walks per day to just 30 before they suspended services last week ... after 11 successful years.
In Seattle, an early COVID-19 hot zone, Seattle4Dogs founder Mark Little tells TMZ ... he wasn't comfortable putting his workers at risk so he shut down on March 20 after 17 years in the biz.
Likewise, Hang Around Hound in San Fran, had to layoff 6 employees when it shut down on March 16. Owner Theresa Hedgepeth says several of her 400 clients have autoimmune disorders ... so she felt "reckless bringing their dogs to different neighborhoods when we didn't completely understand the risk."
Some dog walkers are taking precautions to ease the minds of owners worried about their own exposure and their dog's. For instance, Antonio Alfaro in L.A. only takes pups to Topanga Canyon for walks.
It's off the beaten path with relatively few people ... so there's less reason for his 120 clients to be concerned.
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Wag! -- a bigger, national company -- is practicing social distancing for pickups and drop-offs, plus masks and gloves for all of their walkers. Based on pics Wag! walkers continue to post, they're rolling along just fine.
BTW, dog walking isn't specifically listed as an "essential business" under most state guidelines -- however, many include pet boarding.
And, for any owners concerned their dogs could possibly carry coronavirus if they go out -- the CDC says there's no evidence regular household pets are carriers.