In New York City, I often see dogs tied to lampposts or parking meters while their human counterparts run in a store to buy milk or pick up laundry. Even though these trips are usually quick, it's not safe to leave pets outside like that. They could be stolen, eat something toxic, or escape, among other possible scenarios.
Now there's finally an alternative to leaving your dog at home, although it does comes with its challenges. Brooklyn resident Chelsea Brownridge decided to create a solution to the city petlover's dilemma, a dog house called the Dog Parker. Chelsea was inspired to create the Dog Parker after she had to leave her pup Winston at home while she and her friends took a long walk to Prospect Park. Unfortunately he couldn't join them because the group planned to stop for breakfast along the way. Chelsea was determined to find a way for dogs like Winston to wait safely outside of the restaurant while the humans ate.
The first two units are being tested in front of a retail store and coffee shop in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Dog Parker is insulated to avoid temperature swings, while a solar powered fan provides air circulation. Users can track the inside temperature through the Dog Parker app. On days when the inside temperature goes below 32 degrees or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the units will be shut down and unavailable for use.
Users have to show proof of vaccination when they apply for the membership card that provides access to the Dog Parkers. Members are then charged 20 cents a minute ($12 per hour). There is a three hour limit per 12 hour time period to avoid anyone leaving their dog in a unit too long. If anyone leaves their pet beyond the maximum stay, a Dog Parker employee will pick up the dog and bring them to a boarding facility.
Although the units are cleaned every other day (or more often on an as-needed basis), I could see cleanliness or the spread of germs to be a potential challenge. In a busy neighborhood, countless pets could have contact with a Dog Parker in any given weekend.
But my concerns are more on the usage of the units, which is largely up to members. For running quickly into a store or two, the Dog Parker does fill a niche in an urban area where most people walk to do their shopping. But for longer outings, like eating at a restaurant, it's probably best to keep your dog at home. The maximum stay, three hours, seems like a long time to keep your pet in a box on the sidewalk.
Dog Parker recognizes that not all pets will do well in their units, but the responsibility is on members to make the right judgement call. I also hope that users will see the importance of gradually introducing the Dog Parker to their pets. It can be scary to be left in an unfamiliar place, with people, and potentially their pups, walking by and peering in.
Chelsea plans to have 100 Dog Parkers across Brooklyn by next spring, and eventually wants to expand throughout New York City and to other areas of the country.