New York City has long been known as a “walking city,” a practical pairing for our naturally roaming canine companions. However, anyone who has ever been torn between tying their dog outside while they pop into a store and leaving them at home knows how difficult it can be to marry the two. One company makes it easy to “park” your pooch while you stop to shop, making the walk a seamless one for both of you.
Dog Parker, a Brooklyn-based company, offers short-term boarding facilities for dog owners to safely house their companions while they run into a store, restaurant or what have you. Rather than tying your dog up outside, exposed to the city streets and thousands of passers-by, the climate-controlled, webcam-monitored dog houses offer your best friend a safe space to wait for the fair rate of 20 cents a minute.
The membership-based service is simple: dog owners pay $25 per year per dog, which allows them to access a Dog Parker house with a member card. Using a radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader to lock and unlock houses, the card is then charged 20 cents a minute, or $12 per hour, allowing owners to pay only for what they use.
Founded in December 2014, Dog Parker is the brainchild of Chelsea Brownridge and Todd Schechter, social entrepreneurs with professional backgrounds in the nonprofit sector. The idea for the service occurred to Brownridge following a particularly frustrating afternoon, involving her own dog, Winston, and a long walk to meet a friend at Prospect Park. “Winston would have loved the long walk and a trip to the park, but we were grabbing breakfast first and he wouldn’t be able to come in.” Unwilling to tie her dog outside as she ate, she was forced to leave him home that day. “Usually the weekends are when we get out, so I was really bummed,” she says. “I started thinking about the possibility of a safer alternative, and what that might look like.” After several long conversations with partner Schechter, and a lot of research, the company began to take form.
With safety and hygiene being top concerns, both for the business and its members, the company has taken the better part of a year to get off the ground, consulting with experts and testing various prototypes for their dog houses to ensure the safest facilities possible. “There was a lot to take into consideration,” says Brownridge. “A lot of research had to be done, and we consulted with a lot of people in the developmental stages.”
To maintain regulated temperatures within the houses, insulation is used to keep cold air out in the winter and cool air in during the summer, in addition to weight-sensitive heating and cooling pads and fans to offer additional comfort. “The safe range for animals to be in short term is between 32 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so if we experience extreme weather we will take Dog Parker offline, and inform our members that it is too unsafe to house their dogs on that day,” explains Brownridge. Temperatures within the interiors of each house are monitored to make sure every dog is resting comfortably.
Taking cues from high-volume dog boarding facilities and doggie daycares, Dog Parker uses similar cleaning supplies and scheduled maintenance practices to emulate top-notch sanitary conditions. Dog Parker houses are cleaned daily, or as needed depending on weather conditions. In the future, the new Dog Parker dog house will feature UVC sanitation lights that sterilize the surfaces between each visit.
The company has also instilled a three-hour time limit per 12-hour time period for boarding all dogs, which also complies with New York’s anti-tethering law, stating dogs may not be tied or tethered for more than three hours at a time.
The interiors of the houses are equipped with webcam surveillance, which Dog Parker staff is able to monitor via a live-stream feed and members can tap into from their phones when they are using a Dog Parker. “We want to put people’s minds at ease so we’re always looking toward additional technology, because keeping it as clean and safe as possible is our number-one priority,” Brownridge says.
But before a dog can even step into one of these cool Dog Parkers, members are required to provide the company with their pet’s veterinary records before being approved and dogs must be at least four months old.
Understanding that walking the city streets serves as the only source of exercise for many of the city’s canine residents, Dog Parker hopes to offer owners an alternative to leaving their dog at home, simply because they can’t bring them inside businesses to run errands. “For me, it’s about keeping our dogs active,” says Brownridge. With Dog Parkers located in front of several grocery stores and a yogurt shop in Park Slope and Prospect Heights (map here), the young company is working to expand their efforts this summer.
The company is currently in a tech accelerator program in New York City and has big plans to launch a new model in the coming months, while introducing more Dog Parkers to different neighborhoods.