PROPOSED LEGISLATION RESTRICTS DOG PLAYGROUPS
By Lisa Stolaruk, Writer and Animal Enthusiast
I remember vividly the first time I dropped my dog off for daycare at Bark + Boarding in Baileys Crossroads, VA. While aware that every dog undergoes a thorough and comprehensive evaluation process whereby trained daycare staff gauge their reaction to other dogs of various sizes, breeds and temperaments, I was admittedly a nervous “dog mom.”
Imagine my delight as I spied her romping and playing enthusiastically with a Vizsla easily twice her size and a small Bichon Frise trying to join in the action! It was also comforting to see two daycare attendants weaving in and out of the playgroups, ever watchful and ready to intervene the moment a dog gets a bit rowdy or overly excited.
The owners, managers and staff of daycare facilities such as Bark + Boarding understand the importance of integrating dogs of all shapes and sizes and have implemented safeguards to ensure that all dogs under their care experience an enjoyable and secure environment. Legislation introduced by Virginia Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News) would undermine these efforts if signed into law.
House Bill 79 requires that an employee be present when one dog has physical contact with another dog and imposes weight restrictions and limits on the number of dogs in playgroups. For example, the proposed bill stipulates that there can be no more than five dogs in a group of dogs that weigh between 15 and 29 pounds, and no more than two dogs in a group of dogs that weigh more than 75 pounds. In all, the bill would require a minimum of five separate playgroups, with each group being supervised by a staff member.
“There is no evidence that combining dogs of different sizes is unsafe or puts the dogs at risk. In fact, we found the opposite to be true,” says Ryan Fochler, owner of Bark + Boarding. When Fochler first added dog daycare to his business, he segregated the dogs into three distinct playgroups based on size. “Altercations were quite common, particularly among the small dog group.” Fochler sensed there was a better way and began slowly integrating the groups. It worked.
“Dogs that are of similar temperament and personality is what’s important, not size. Creating an environment that minimizes risks and making sure the dogs feel secure, unthreatened and comfortable in that environment” is the key to success, according to Fochler.
If passed, the legislation would have a profound impact on daycare companies in Virginia and potentially animal rescues as well. The cost of renovating existing facilities and hiring and training additional daycare staff to supervise multiple playgroups would be prohibitive to small business owners, clients and rescues. “We’d be forced to close our doors,” says Fochler. “The real losers would be the dogs who would no longer benefit from the social, emotional and physical benefits that supervised group play and interaction provide.”
Pet service companies, rescues and interested citizens are encouraged to contact Bark + Boarding at 703.931.5057 or email@example.com for additional information and guidance on opposing the legislation.