Sequestration Bites Dog-Walking Businesses

Service industry firms like dog walking and dog day care businesses say pay cuts and furloughs will hurt their small firms.

While the specter of sequestration has government workers worried about the possibility of pay cuts and furloughs, service industries like pet day care businesses and dog walkers are also bracing for a bite to their bottom lines.

Katie Wright has successfully built her dog walking business from a one-person shop to four staffers during the past 18 months.

It’s something she’s proud of, and many residents of the Old Town community and elsewhere rely on Fairy Dogmom’s services to help them care for their dogs while they are away from home during the workday.

"We work with many clients that work for government agencies and this has the potential to interrupt our service and affect our bottom line,” said Wright. “When owners are home they typically walk their own dogs. It's great for the dogs to have their companions at home, but not so great for dog-walking companies that rely on the income."

The threat to Wright's bottom line -- and survival -- underlines how sequestration is already impacting not only government employees and services, but also businesses that benefit from having a large concentration of federal workers in their back yard. In government-saturated Virginia, a sequestration study by George Mason University found, up to 207,000 jobs could be lost.

Paul Haire, owner of dog care and boarding small business Your Dog’s Best Friends in Del Ray said sequestration will affect his firm, too.

“It’s something I think about, and it’s a conversation that took place at the dinner table of a friend’s last night with a defense contractor. …We would feel the affect at the margins,” said Haire, who is also a former Senate staffer and an economist by training.

“People will be staying home for the fifth day of the week. For most of my clients, the care that we give their dog is a high priority…but they may skip a vacation” due to the pay cuts, he said.

He noted that sequestration also will diminish the amount of business travel workers go on, also affecting their need for daytime services like dog care.

Becky's Pet Care owner Becky O'Neil, whose firm serves the Northern Virginia area, said she is concerned about the affect sequestration could have on her business - and all businesses in the area.

"If it happens, it could have a devastating effect on our local economy," she said. "However, we do believe that people’s pets are a core part of their lives and that they will continue to provide the best possible care for them. We certainly hope that our elected officials will be able to come to an agreement and that we can avoid sequestration."

NOVA Professional Pet Sitters Network said on Old Town Alexandria Patch’s Facebook page in response to a call for comments about sequestration: “I agree it probably won't happen. But if it did, it may have an impact on our member business. We depend on people going to work so we can walk the dogs!”

For more on sequestration, see:

  • Kaine: Sequestration to Affect Education Funding in Virginia
  • McDonnell: Sequester Could Force Virginia into Recession
Kristina Robertson February 26, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Hi there, I have had my company, Barkley Square Pets since 1991. There have been many changes in over 20 years with the economy and the like. I honestly believe that our customers who have added pet care into their pets lives will continue. A dog walker and pet care giver is also a family member. The clients that pet sitting companies serve would really have to think long and hard before they would disrupt thier pets routines and happiness. Call me simple, but thats my story and I'm sticking to it. Life happens and all who care to believe in the good will continue on and will do it with success and a smile. Bow Wow Fur Now
Scot February 27, 2013 at 12:32 AM
Rosalyn, Apparently Sharon's husband may be "sequestered" so we are getting days of party-line scary stories on sequestration. Next up, how "sequestration" is responsible for global warming. Obviously, this article hits all OTers where it hurts - their dogwalkers. Unlikely to be a separate article on how proposed higher taxes and fees will affect residents and business owners. I've already cut back to one milk bone a day....
Sharon McLoone February 27, 2013 at 12:42 AM
Hi Rosalyn, The small business owners I spoke with said spending time preparing and planning for a possible sequestration was taking time away from managing and growing their small firms.
Vicki Penn February 28, 2013 at 06:28 PM
No one is being affected yet, so quit with the hyperboil. No furlough days yet and if you are spending that much time worrying about it, then you are not paying attention to your business now and YOU are hurting your business. There is nothing you can personally do to prevent whatever is going to happen so learn to go with the flow and make adjustments as you need to. Life is too short to worry about tomorrow- it will come and what will be, will be.
Ruben Duran March 06, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Hey that's me! Happy to say that it appears only a couple of clients will likely be affected and they/I have already made adjustments. I know there are others though that are concerned that they could lose a client or see a much bigger cutback on their service. Were was the pic taken...Rose Park?


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