New York City Council officially voted to pass a pilot program to provide “pet harbors” in Brooklyn this summer, which would provide safe and secure place for pets on sidewalks while owners shop in adjacent local commercial businesses. Pet harbors were previously banned by the Department of Transportation in 2017.

“Instead of supporting the innovation of a woman-owned and Brooklyn-manufactured business, New York City took a backwards approach by removing all pet harbors without warning,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal, who drafted the bill.

The bill would not only benefit pets but also the Brooklyn-founded company, DogSpot, which began providing harbors for dogs with a lockable door and air conditioning in 2017. With a number of stores complying with a Department of Health law prohibiting pets from the food service and food processing businesses, pets were literally put on the street, leashed to any structure owners could find.

DogSpot pet harbor. 

“For more than two years, DogSpot operated a network of these safe, internet-connected, climate controlled dog houses on Brooklyn sidewalks without incident,” said DogSpot founder Chelsea Brownridge at a City Council hearing in October.

Brownridge cited the benefits to dogs and dog owners alike in her testimony, especially with regard to safety.

“Right now, what you’ll see up and down on any given commercial street is dogs tied up and again,” she said. “That’s not safe for sidewalks either, and so, what we’re trying to do is create a safe environment for those dogs, so that pedestrians can move freely, so that dogs can be safe.”

Although the pet harbors were established with the permission of the business owners, the DOT issued a cease and desist order against DogSpot, citing the use of sidewalk space as a deterrent to the increasingly populated city. The pilot program’s answer is modeled after an existing law that dates back to the 1980s that allows sidewalk space in front of businesses for coin operated rides.

Pet harbor in use by two dogs in front of store.

The bill, Int. 886, will allow an agency or office designated by the mayor to establish the pilot program in Brooklyn, while partnering with the DOT and local community boards. The program will last for at least a year and will culminate in a report delivered to Speaker Corey Johnson.

Local community members are already responding favorably to the program.

“Anything where you can keep a pup cool during these hot months is a great idea.  I also don’t like it when time-pressed dog owners leash their dog up unattended, so this is a great alternative,” said Jeff Smith, who runs Bushwick Dog Walking Company. The enclosed space creates a safe haven for dogs to cool off in the heat, while also the casual passerby is protected from an unfamiliar animal. These all help dog-owners run their errands with a peace of mind.

“It’s our City’s job to create an environment where small businesses can thrive, and this pilot program will do just that for pet harbors,” says Council Member Espinal. “Pet harbors are a win-win innovation; they’re good for businesses, good for dog-owners, and good for dogs.”

All images courtesy of @DogSpot.

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