Will the Bark Be Worse Than the Bite with Dog Parker [e243]

December 16, 2015

The guys end the week by talking about the New York startup Dog Parkerthat allows owners to leave their dogs in fancy cages. They also discuss the treats surrounding the company’s longevity.

Full Podcast Transcript

NASIR: Welcome to our podcast where we cover business in the news and add our legal twist to that news. My name is Nasir Pasha and we’re welcoming our co-host, the dog whisperer of San Diego, California.

MATT: Yeah, Matt Staub. I wish I was a dog whisperer. It’d be cool.

NASIR: We just have to whisper to a dog. That’s it.

MATT: But, yeah, if I knew what my dog was thinking at all times, it would just be nonsense.

NASIR: Yeah, I would assume so. I mean, they’re smart animals but, at the end, they’re still just an animal. I really do sometimes wish I can talk to animals. Those faces seem to present so much personality yet they still do the dumbest animalistic things, you know?

MATT: Yeah. You said it. I mean, dogs are pretty smart but my dog still does the same stupid mistakes all the time. It’s like he never learns.

NASIR: Yeah.

MATT: I mean, he can do really smart things but he also just does the dumbest things every single day. Like, every day.

NASIR: It’s like we’re impressed but, at the same time, we’re still disappointed as if we’re expecting something more, you know.

MATT: It’s my training perhaps.

NASIR: Yeah.

MATT: I don’t know how I feel about this business. You were the one that told me about it.

NASIR: I didn’t find it.

MATT: Yeah. Well, Chris was the one who found it, right? We’ll give her credit.

NASIR: Yeah.

MATT: I liked the idea in theory because I have thought about this before but then I kind of watched the video and it was a little bit sad almost and then I started reading comments on other people’s stories on it and it was such a backlash that I flipped back to where I was originally and was for it.

NASIR: You’re saying the protestors, the negative response made you more positive for it.

MATT: Yeah, and I’ll get into why later so just remind me but let me explain what this is first.

NASIR: Yeah, explain what it is.

MATT: We’ll link it because you’ll see the video and so it’s not just some dungeon that this is but basically I believe it’s only in Brooklyn right now – or at least in NYC – and it is I don’t want to call it a kennel but it’s basically a very nice cage – or not even a cage but an enclosed area – kind of like a locker but with a window.

NASIR: It’s like a box. I would say a metal box with a vertical window with some holes in it.

MATT: Yeah.

NASIR: And I think there’s holes all around, right?

MATT: Yeah, there’s holes in it so the dogs can breathe. Well, I guess it doesn’t even have to be just dogs. It doesn’t say. But, yeah, it’s basically, let’s say you’re going to the store and you have your dog with you, instead of tying the dog up outside and going in, this would allow you to take your card, get access in, the dog goes in there, they’re locked in there until you come back out and get the dog. You know, they’ve apparently worked on a bunch of things to make it operate well with the holes in it so they can breathe and I guess they don’t do it if it’s below a certain temperature or above a certain temperature – the extreme ones. There’s a whole bunch of other things but I liked this concept because I’ve taken my dog by myself before and had to go in somewhere. I’m just worried that someone’s going to steal my dog or do something stupid. I’m just over-concerned about it so I guess this is one way to prevent that. But, like I said, after I watched the video, I guess the dog would sit there anyways and look like that, all sad, but it’s kind of they’re just locked in this box and I can see dogs really freaking out – you know, if they weren’t used to something like this. Here’s the thing. Kids go up, they’re going to tap on the glass, but then kids are going to go up and pet dogs, too.

NASIR: They may be more inclined if it’s indoors. Like, in a box so they wouldn’t. Maybe kids are afraid to pet, you know.

MATT: Yeah, and I already forgot the thing I was going to mention earlier that I told you to remind me about.

NASIR: It was about how you were negative and then, because everyone else was negative, you were like, “Oh, this isn’t cool anymore. I’ve got to be positive on it.”

MATT: The backlash? Was that it?

NASIR: Yeah, the backlash.

MATT: Well, yeah, because people were like, “Oh, I would never do this. This is inhumane. This isn’t a way to treat dogs.” It’s like, well, the alternative is to just leave your dog tied. I’ve done it. Leave your dog tied up to a pole and go inside somewhere which is a lot less safe than just putting them in this box. I’d rather them be protected, I guess.

NASIR: Yeah.

MATT: At least from a personal liability standpoint. You know, a dog is not going to bite anyone inside a box.

NASIR: That’s right, and that’s usually – I guess from a legal end – what you’re worried about from a liability perspective. But I saw the founder made a comment and I think this is true. I think they’re right. I think she said that dogs are den animals and so that’s why the glass isn’t that big. If it’s too big or it’s a cage, then they feel exposed because of all these people coming around. I can see that, I can understand that. From a humane perspective, temporary enclosures of animals, I guess it kind of depends upon your disposition. It doesn’t seem like that would be too archaic, right?

MATT: Yeah. I mean, there’s a big difference between this and putting a dog in a cage that’s barely big enough for it to be in there or it can’t even stand up in there. Also, this is the owner’s choice to do this. I mean, we don’t have a cage for our dog but many people do. They cage their dogs at home. Like, it’s your dog. There’s no one that should be able to tell you. Obviously, if you’re abusing it or doing something bad, someone can tell you something. But you’re generally free to do – within reason – what you want with your dog and how you prevent them from running around or things like that. I don’t see this as that bad. I mean, I guess maybe I’d want to see it in person but, looking from the video, it doesn’t seem like it’s that bad of a contraption for the dog to be in for a short… this is the thing. It’s a short-term thing. It’s a maximum…

NASIR: Three hours, I think.

MATT: Three hours is a long time, too.

NASIR: They say max three hours but they say it’s intended to be a short-term kind of thing – like a 20-minute thing – because how much do they charge? They charge 20 cents per hour? Or 20 cents per minute?

MATT: 20 cents per minute. Well, here’s one of the interesting things. It’s 20 cents a minute which is what? $12.00 an hour – pretty cheap.

NASIR: Yeah.

MATT: If you go over the three hours, I guess they have some way to tell. At that point, they will have somebody come and take the dog out of there and take it to one of their boarding facilities that they have.

NASIR: Really?

MATT: Not only will they go take your dog to somewhere you don’t know. Then, they start charging you $5.00 a minute for every minute you are over up to 30 minutes.

NASIR: And then, they’ll deploy a team member. I guess they just consider it like an abandoned pet.

MATT: Yeah. It’s three hours. Once you go over that, it’s $5.00 a minute for 30 minutes. Then, they’ll send somebody and it’s $200 if they take it to a boarding facility. Quite a bit, yeah. You’re exactly right. They treat it as an abandoned dog and, I mean, I guess at that point your dog’s been locked up in this box for at least three and a half hours.

NASIR: Yeah.

MATT: That kind of is abandonment. Obviously, there could be a situation where something happens.

NASIR: But that can happen anyway – whether you tie your dog up to a pole or not.

MATT: Yeah. I guess from that perspective, they’ve looked at those risks and figured out a way to do it. My other main flag was, you know, how clean are these things going to be? I mean, especially if dogs are anxious –and some dogs are – you know, getting locked into some box and your owner disappearing, that can really make a dog anxious.

NASIR: Well, here’s the crazy part. In a way, it’s called Dog Parker, I don’t know if we mentioned that – dogparker.com if you want to check it out – what’s interesting from Dog Parker’s perspective is that, from their end, it doesn’t really matter in the sense that, yeah, they want to have clean facilities. They want it to be nice for the dog in order for it to be attractive to the customers. But, from a legal perspective, not to be callous or kind of morbid here but approach this from a legal perspective; their legal risk is actually relatively low. Fortunately – or unfortunately, however you want to look at it – the law treats animals as personal property. It is not dissimilar than storing – in a sense, from a liability perspective – storing like just a regular locker of your personal belongings. One caveat is that you’re storing live animals and, of course, there are statutory protections for animals and things like that and you can’t be cruel to animals. But, from a liability perspective, if somehow they mess up and worst-case scenario, so long as they don’t break any laws, their financial liability to the owner is limited to, again, just to put this in a morbid way, the cost of replacing the animal and that’s a crazy way to think about it but, you know, that’s how the law considers it.

MATT: Yeah. I mean, I guess the worst case would be that somebody puts their dog in there, they come back out from wherever they’re at, try to get their dog out and they can’t because the machine malfunctions and then their dog ends up getting injured or dying in the box. I mean, that’s got to be like worst-case scenario.

NASIR: Or something more likely. You know, you have a dog that has some kind of disease go into the Dog Parker. A second dog comes in, contracts that disease, gets sick, dies or it all of a sudden has to incur all this medical expense. Little things like that can happen and it’s actually very common when you have animals in close proximity to each other. You never know if the dog goes to the bathroom inside or whatever accidentally. And so, little things like that can definitely cause some problems but it’s a very low-risk business if you think about it. Unfortunately, for Dog Parker too, it’s pretty easily replicated in other cities. I don’t know, even if this catches on, what do you think? Do you think this is something that can catch on right now? They’re starting in Brooklyn. It seems like they’re a pretty small company right now.

MATT: I think it depends on the city but, yeah, it can – in any downtown area, especially ones like San Diego, for example.

NASIR: Yeah, San Diego is very pet-friendly.

MATT: It seems like every person has at least one dog.

NASIR: Yeah.

MATT: If anything, we need more of them.
But going back to what you just said though, it does vet all the dogs. I guess you have to show proof of vaccination. I guess that’s at least something. But, like you said, you can have a vaccinated dog and, yeah, there was a dog recently here that went to a dog park and got something and died and it spread around. It’s not like it’s 100 percent fool-proof that it’s going to work.

NASIR: Absolutely. I’m just looking here at their FAQ and they answer some of the obvious questions. You know, how many dogs can go in and sizes and it sounds like they’ve been doing this for a while – for a little bit to at least get these answers in there. I’m still interested to see if this is going to catch on. It doesn’t seem like it would be but we’ll see.

MATT: Yeah. I mean, unfortunately, I’m sceptical as well. It’s a cool idea but I just don’t know if I’d use it.

NASIR: It does seem strange. I’d put my cat in it for a little bit.

MATT: Well, someone using this is far less strange than somebody walking a cat outside on a leash.

NASIR: You’ve seen that before, right? Or no?

MATT: Yeah. I mean, I’ve seen dog, obviously. I’ve seen cat. When I lived downtown, there was someone that used to walk a pig around which was kind of weird.

NASIR: Oh, that’s a good one.

MATT: And then, you’ll see maybe a lizard. You’ll see weird people with birds on their shoulders walking around.

NASIR: In one of these video clips, they interviewed it looks like a bar restaurant owner and he was commenting how people were asking what their reactions were and some were saying, you know, they loved it and some people were saying, “Really?” and then others were wondering if they can put their kids in it.

MATT: Yeah, I watched that video.

NASIR: That was… funny.

MATT: Yeah. I mean, I guess that’s one angle to look at. You know, if you’re a business and you have the space, it could be a way to drive more business in. I mean, maybe I wouldn’t be able to go to this convenience store because they wouldn’t let my dog in but now I can just put my dog in this spot right here and go in the store real quick and get some business. I don’t think it’s going to generate too much extra cash flow for any business.

NASIR: It looks like they have internal webcams inside the thing, too.

MATT: It’s not just a box. I mean, there’s quite a bit of technology and precautions that have been put in place.

NASIR: No, you’re right. They try to think of all those little details and I think that’s what’s going to set them apart if they’re going to do this.

MATT: I don’t know. We’ll see if it works, I guess. I’ll keep my eyes out for Dog Parker as it slowly expands from outside of New York.

NASIR: After Brooklyn, San Diego’s a great place to pilot this out.

MATT: Well, think about San Diego though. There’s so many places that are dog-friendly on the inside.

NASIR: Oh, that you can bring them?

MATT: Yeah.

NASIR: That’s true.

MATT: I mean, there’s restaurants and bars that you can…

NASIR: Is that true?

MATT: Yeah, it’s weird.

NASIR: Okay. Yeah, maybe not then. Okay, don’t listen to me, Dog Parker. Go somewhere else. We don’t want you there. All right. Well, thanks for joining us.

MATT: Yeah, keep it sound and keep it smart.

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Legally Sound Smart Business

A business podcast with a legal twist

Legally Sound Smart Business is a podcast by Pasha Law PC covering different topics in business advice and news with a legal twist with attorneys Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub.
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