Once again, social media provided me with another column idea. I was at a late October dog show. It was raining and cold. Everything was outside.
I was sitting in my car doing some work when I popped over to social media. I saw an ad asking people whether they had a yard over a certain size and would like to make money renting it to dog owners. Many people were commenting about what a great idea this was and how interested they were in learning more.
Of course, me being me and quite caffeinated, I asked a couple of questions and raised a few concerns. If you are someone who has seen this or similar ads, before you sign up, there are things to consider.
First is are you able to do this where you live? Would renting your yard be considered a business?
Look at various rules and regulations for what businesses can be run from your property. You may not be able to have a pet business where people come to your home. Do you need to apply for a special use permit? Even if your jurisdiction says you are fine, do you have a homeowners’ association that may feel differently?
If you do not own your property, will your landlord allow you to rent the yard to others? Remember, the landlord is ultimately responsible for what happens on the property.
Now consider liability. What insurance do you need? Will your homeowner’s insurance cover this? If not, can you afford a second insurance policy? Will you need those using your yard to sign waivers? What if there is a dog fight or someone is bitten? Will the insurance cover all types of dogs? Will you have strict rules for use posted? Will you require proof of vaccines? What if there is a lawsuit due to something that happens while someone was using your property to exercise their dogs? You need to go into this knowing all legal issues.
What will you do to increase safety? Will you require only one person at a time with personal dogs to reduce the risk of altercations? Will you allow dog walkers to bring clients’ dogs or not?
Is your yard secure? (In other words, do you have a completely fenced area?) Is the fence tall enough to keep dogs confined? Many dogs can jump a 4-foot fence. I was driving past a dog play yard with a 5-foot fence. I watched a border collie clear the fence and take off into the woods across the road. Can you afford to make your yard secure to reduce your liability?
Another ad I have seen encourages people to open home dog daycares. Once again, all the above concerns need to be considered, along with your training and skills. Do you know how to evaluate dogs for compatibility? What if there is a fight? Do you have the ability to separate dogs into different areas if needed? What if someone complains and you are shut down?
It is tempting, especially at times like these, to investigate other options for income. However, there are many things that need to be considered before opening your property to people and their dogs.
Before you jump at what seems too good to be true and an easy way to bring in cash, stop and think. Do your homework before rushing into an endeavor. You may be biting off more than you can chew.
Karen Peak is the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project and owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County.