Since the federal government shut down on Oct. 1, more than half a million federal employees have been staying home on furlough — without work and without pay.
One unexpected effect of the shutdown is that it’s killing the dog-walking market in Washington, D.C. While dogs and their owners might see having more quality time as a silver lining in a very dark cloud, the walkers and their agencies are just worried about how long they’ll be without business.
Christina Bell, owner of Doggy Daze DC, told the Huffington Post last week that her business took a 50 percent dive as soon as the shutdown went into effect. If this lasts longer than an month, she says, she’ll probably have to give up dog-walking and find a paycheck another way. That would mean not only losing her own business, but a significant portion of her income as well: “Working at a grocery store or something would be cutting my pay in half.”
At Saving Grace Pet Care, Grace Steckler has seen a 20 percent decline in business, according to USA Today. Steckler employs 30 walkers, and she’s having trouble getting enough work to go around.
“I have fixed expenses that I need to pay no matter what,” Steckler said. “My main concern is that my dog walkers are able to make the money they need.”
That’s probably going to get harder as people start pinching pennies and bracing for the long haul. One of Grace’s managers, Karl Sidenstick, says that some of their regulars have called in tears to cancel their walks: “They don’t know how long it’s going to be so they just can’t afford it.”
One dog-related business is reporting a surge in business, thanks to the shutdown. The Muddy Mutt, a self-serve dog wash in Arlington, Virginia, is seeing record crowds because owners who are stuck at home are bringing their dogs to nearby Shirlington Dog Park. Muddy Mutt owner Andrew Low said that, “Usually we’re dead during the week … Twenty-five on Monday, 14 on Tuesday, 23 yesterday. That’s a lot during the week. We don’t even ever come close to that.”
Top photo: Dog Walker Silhouette by Shutterstock.