CT Regulation Of Gig Economy Pet Businesses Stirs Debate

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GIG ECONOMY(noun): A way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer…

Of course, this definition is from the dictionary. And as such, it is accurate. But it is also rather generic and somewhat outdated. Since I’m an active participant in the 21st century version, I prefer to think of the gig economy as: a system in which Internet platforms and/or apps are created to: a) offer certain services, and b) facilitate hiring of independent contractors to provide them.

If that sounds too convoluted, here are some examples. First, there are platforms that specifically cater to “creatives” and other skilled professionals, such as Upwork and Freelancer. And then there’s:

  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Instacart
  • DoorDash
  • TaskRabbit

The list goes on, and on….

Don’t forget Rover and Wag

There are even apps that cater to those of us who have — and those of us who enjoy working with — companion animals. Take Rover, for example. This website/app lets people sign up as pet sitters. If they are approved (following an application process that includes a basic background check),  they are paired with pet owners in need of boarding, house sitting, dog walking, “doggy daycare,” and home visits.

Great Dane wins Best Lap Dog contest at Puttin' on the Dog.
Best Lap Dog winner. Puttin’ on the Dog. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Specifically, pet owners can use Rover to find sitters in their area and arrange for the services they need.

Another website/app called Wag also caters to people interested in becoming dog walkers and dog sitters/boarders. Like its counterpart, Wag claims that it puts applicants through comprehensive screening process before they are approved. Once they are, they are paired with pet owners in need of specific services.

In Connecticut, the law struggles to keep up

As the gig economy keeps on booming, legislators across the country are struggling to keep up. In Connecticut, for example, lawmakers have come up with two approaches for addressing regulatory concerns associated with Internet/app-based pet care services.

Introduced by state Senator Catherine Osten, proposed S.B. No. 250 is also known as “An Act Concerning the Regulation of Commercial Kennels.”  If approved, it would change the language in existing laws so a commercial kennel would be legally classified as “a place maintained for boarding or grooming five or more cats or dogs.”  That way, anyone who cares for four or fewer animals belonging to other people  in their own homes would not be defined and regulated as commercial kennels.

Osten said she proposed the legislation as a way to protect thousands of people in Connecticut that work as gig economy pet sitters from being regulated in the same way as traditional commercial kennels.

Then there’s proposed H.B. No. 5399 or “Ann Act Concerning the Definition of Kennel for the Purposes of Commercial Kennel Regulation,” which was introduced by state Rep. Kim Rose. It also calls for changes to existing language so that a kennel is defined as “a facility rather than to a pack or collection of dogs.” Doing so would “clarify the statutory provisions for  commercial kennel registration and regulation by the Department of Agriculture.”

“We’re not trying to tell these internet businesses ‘you can’t do business in Connecticut,’” Rose told the Hartford Courant. “All we’re asking them to do is the right thing: become licensed and inspected so we can make sure you’re taking good, healthy care of our pets.”

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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