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Rover pet sitters
(Rover.com Photo)

Pet sitters in New York City who use the popular app from Seattle-based Rover.com are apparently breaking the law and could face a hefty fine, according to a report in the Daily News this week.

Health Department rules in New York ban anyone from taking money to care for an animal outside a licensed kennel, the Daily News reported. Boarding, feeding and grooming animals for a fee without a kennel license is illegal and the licenses can’t be issued for private homes.

Rover, the fast-growing 6-year-old startup that connects pet owners and sitters in its online marketplace, has 95,000 pet owners registered in New York, and 9,000 sitters, who brought in $4.1 million over the last year.

The newspaper reported that there has not been a full-scale crackdown, but two apartment residents have been hit with violations for caring for pets without a permit — and the fines start at $1,000.

“People have been watching their neighbor’s pets since pets came to be, and unfortunately the regulations in New York City are not in touch with how people find pet care,” John Lapham, Rover’s general counsel and SVP for business and legal affairs, told GeekWire in a statement. “In New York, you can watch two children in your home for compensation without a license, but not a single dog or cat. Rover was successful in supporting legislation in both Colorado and California that cleared the way for allowing in-home pet sitting without a license, just as you can for children, and we’re confident there is a sensible solution for the millions of pet owners in New York City who need to secure safe, local and affordable pet care in order to own a pet.”

A Health Department spokesman told the Daily News that the ban is justified by public health concerns and the need to ensure that animals are secure and safe.

A rep also reached out to GeekWire to say that the department’s main concern is commercial boarding with no oversight, and provided the following statement:

“In order to protect animals from neglect, the Health Department requires animal boarding and kennel facilities to obtain permits and comply with regulations. Commercial boarding of animals in homes is illegal. These regulations do not apply to the average New Yorker who may pet sit for friends, family, and neighbors.”

At least one elected official said it was “crazy” that pet sitting could be considered illegal and he plans to draft legislation to allow it.

“There are millions of cats and dogs in New York City, and people I think believe they can pet sit or have someone pet sit for them,” City Council health committee chair Corey Johnson told the Daily News. “To have a law on the books that says that’s illegal is antiquated and not practical.”

Rover announced a $65 million investment round just last week and has now raised $156 million and employs 236 people. With vetted sitters in more than 10,000 North American cities, Rover is looking at international expansion, more marketing and new services for pet owners and sitters with the latest capital.

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