Certain hiking trails have gone to the dogs in San Francisco. Never before had I encountered so many dogs on a hiking trail as I did recently on a hike along the coastal bluffs near Ocean Beach.

Dogs, dogs, everywhere at Fort Funston, where Commercial Dog Walking is permitted.
Dogs, dogs, everywhere at Fort Funston, where Commercial Dog Walking is permitted.

I was hiking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, not far from the trailhead at Fort Funston and there they were: pooches of every shape and size, color and character. It was like a jailbreak from the animal shelter, with just a handful of humans trying to control a hundred dogs.

Surprise!

I’m not sure what was more surprising to me—the sheer volume of canines, discovering them on national parkland, or realizing that all these dogs were taking a hike without their owners. I started asking around the hiking community in the City by the Bay and discovered that certain hiking trails have gone to the dogs in San Francisco.

It turns out Commercial Dog Walking is a big deal in the national parkland around San Francisco. And what seemed like canine chaos to me is actually a business regulated by the National Park Service.

Walking the Dog(s): The Business
According the National Park Service, the annual permit cost consists of a $75 application fee plus a $300 fee per individual dog walker; for a company employing two dog walkers, the total annual cost is $675.The park service states that permit costs are based on cost recovery estimates for the management and administration of the program.

Requirements for Commercial Dog Walkers include completion of a training course approved by San Francisco Animal Care and Control or proof of three consecutive years as a commercial dog walker in good standing. A Certificate of Insurance is required, for $1,000,000 per occurrence/ $2,000,000 aggregate, listing “The U.S. Government, National Park Service, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area” as Additional Insured.

A Modest Proposal: “One Dog Per Hiker”
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t object to taking a hike with a dog, provided that the hiking takes place on pathways and in parklands suitable for such use, and that owners clean up after their animals. A hike is fun and healthy exercise for dog and owner alike.

What I find ironic is people paying to take their dogs on a hike while they are…working? Well, I guess if I had to work in an office all day and couldn’t get on the trail it would make me feel better to know my dog was taking a hike.

What we need to do is to encourage is “One Dog Per Hiker” so that both dogs and dog-owners enjoy the benefits of hiking.

Hike On.

John McKinney
The Trailmaster