Dogs on walks have always posed some risk to pedestrians, as it is impossible to predict when an animal might become aggressive. Though there are steps a person can take to mitigate the risk, such as never approaching an unfamiliar dog, being careful around dogs that are sleeping, and not startling a dog with loud noises, there is often little a person can do to avoid an animal that is being walked down the street.
Dog-walking services have existed for decades, offering those with little time to provide proper exercise for their animals another option to ensure their canine gets the necessary amount of movement to stay healthy. These services advertised but also relied on word-of-mouth, insuring that happy customers and well-treated dogs were the key to the business’ survival. And because they were established businesses, there was a clear legal framework for pursuing them if they were negligent.
Technology threatens to change that long-standing dynamic. Apps have been created with the goal of matching people needing their dogs walked with would-be dog walkers, but whether or not these apps are insuring the walkers are properly vetted is unclear. Just as other online services such as Uber and Lyft have struggled to ensure the safety of their charges, these new dog-walking services might not be best for the dogs themselves, or for the people sharing the streets with them.
When crossing paths with a dog, a person is reliant upon the dog-handler to know the animal in question. Understanding how much room to allow a given dog on the leash, recognizing external events that might scare a dog, and understanding the dog’s temperament are the best protections against aggression. But these new services offer no guarantee of any of this, and the method of matching dog to walker offers little room to offer these assurances.
If you or someone you love has suffered due to a dog bite, one of the first questions to ask is who was responsible for the animal at the time of the attack. Determining whether or not the attack was predictable or the result of bad animal management is important. Please consult with an experienced attorney regarding your case.