Can Dog Walkers Return To Work

Ava Flores
• Wednesday, 28 October, 2020
• 7 min read

In this guide, I’ll share some of my knowledge not just about business registration but also VAT, tax deductions and returns, as well as where you can find additional information to read to help build your knowledge. The quickest and easiest way to register to work for yourself with HMRC is to apply to be self-employed.

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You’ll need to make sure you’ve registered by the 5th October following the end of the tax year you went over the £1,000 threshold. Even if you are currently not making much profit from your dog walking business or just crossed the £1,000 threshold, you must still register with HMRC and fill in a tax return.

These may offer you better tax-savings depending on your earnings and protection from creditors, but they often carry more reporting responsibilities meaning you need to engage an accountant. Claiming for allowable business expenses is the easiest way to reduce your tax bill when you’re self-employed.

So say you use your mobile phone for 60% work and 40% personal, then can claim 60% of the total bills to put against your taxes. You’ll need to submit a tax return online declaring your income and expenses once a year by 31 January, as well as paying tax twice a year by 31 January and 31 July.

When you’re self-employed, you’re legally required to keep records and paperwork that support all your income and expenses and hold onto them for 6 years. That way if HMRC ever asks how you arrived at the figures on your tax return, you’ll be able to show them evidence.

Open a separate bank account so all your payments are in one place and help you budget for your tax bill (take a look at Starling); Store your records and paperwork using a secure cloud-based storage system like Google Drive or Dropbox; Set aside time on a regular basis to check all your finances are in order and do your bookkeeping. The Coronavirus pandemic has already shed light on a lot of things about us: our penchant for panic-buying, how infrequently some people used to wash their hands (ice), our steadfast belief that toilet paper is a panacea for all ills, and just how much we all touch our damn faces.

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But it's also thrown into sharp relief just how little of a safety net the people we depend on to make our lives better, more convenient, and more stylish really have. I'm talking about gig workers, the estimated 57 million Americans who walk our dogs, watch our kids, care for our elderly relatives, style our hair, deliver our takeout, wax our eyebrows, and perform myriad other services.

Some 36% of Americans work in the gig economy, and while these jobs have long been branded as side-hustles, the reality is that an increasing number of people depend on them to survive, says Erin Patton, an associate professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who focuses on the sociology of work. Nationwide, women make up about half of all gig workers, and do the lion's share of childcare work.

That's the case for Panel Duress, a full-time yoga and meditation teacher and Thai bodywork practitioner in Hoboken, New Jersey. On Saturday, March 14, the mayor of Duress' small city across the river from Manhattan ordered all yoga studios to close indefinitely, and her weekly private client canceled for the entire month out of concern for her 4-month-old daughter and elderly mom.

Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed a major bill aimed at providing free coronavirus testing, food assistance, and emergency paid sick leave, providing relief for the more than 40% of service workers who didn't have any paid sick leave in 2019. Sarah Nash is the owner of Pup Strut, a dog -walking service in Tacoma Park, Maryland.

Now she estimates she's already lost 80% of her clients as growing fears over the spread of germs also lead people to cancel. “Independent contractors must budget their lives in a very different way to compensate for lack of employee benefits.

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Nor does it cover the expected costs these workers handle every day: the rent, food, childcare and other basics. That's why Bridget McClain Vetoed her dog walker and house cleaner already, even though neither will be coming to her Maple wood, New Jersey home in the near future.

She says she included a note for her walker about how much her dog misses her, and plans to pay her house cleaner a bonus when she comes back after weeks of the family of four being at home full-time. Nash says that before you go out and panic-buy at a big chain like Target, set aside the money you need to pay the people who empower you to function year-round.

“It can be frustrating to see people investing in superfluous items like toilet paper and alcohol, and then not be able to 'afford' the services they normally need.” Duress, who is working to set up virtual yoga lessons for her clients, hopes her students step up to practice what they preach, even during this uncertain time.

The Coronavirus pandemic is unfolding in real time, and guidelines change by the minute. We promise to give you the latest information at time of publishing, but please refer to the CDC and WHO for updates.

Dog walkers all over the world are wondering if dog walking is considered “essential” and if they should continue walking dogs amidst government mandated shelter in place and lockdown orders due to the coronavirus crisis. First if you're not familiar with these type of Orders, I am in no way suggesting that dog walkers don't provide a valuable, much needed service.

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What I'm talking about here are government Orders that define which jobs are seen as “essential” and can continue to operate during a shelter in place, lockdown, or similar situation. My hope in sharing this is that it will help you determine if dog walkers are considered “essential” or “key” workers in your own area as well as to share the considerations and factors I looked at while making my decision, so you can make the best choice for your business.

Keep in mind things may be wildly different based on your location and this is simply the experience I had here in Marin County, California. I can only share my personal experience and recommendations from being under a shelter in place order for the past week, reading Orders and FAQ's for multiple counties, and speaking to my local human health services.

You'll probably be able to find it online by doing a search for “shelter in place order + your county (or your city or town)”. The Order may include verbiage telling you if dog walkers are considered essential.

If it doesn't mention professional dog walking, or it's unclear on whether any reference to pet care would apply to you, you can look for an FAQ about the Order. The County websites I've looked at include both the order and an FAQ clarifying it further.

When contacting my human health services, there was confusion with the rep I spoke with too, who initially said she thought professional dog walking was OK. After putting me on hold and speaking with a supervisor, I was told they would be updating the FAQ to address this and to check back later.

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So there's still some gray area here since we have to interpret what exactly “health and sanitation” means as well as “non-essential” home services. As a business owner, it's up to you to do your due diligence to ensure you're complying with any public health Orders that may be enacted, so if you aren't sure, the best course of action is to contact an agency who can tell you.

Even though I directed you to find out if it is legal to continue walking first, health and safety should be your top priorities. All business owners should put the health and safety of themselves, their staff, their clients, and their communities ahead of all else.

Can the dog's most basic needs, such as access to food and water be met without your service? Since my clients are all working from home, they can take care of their own dogs' basic needs, and then some.

Working with Dog has complied a list of resources for pet professionals, including companies that are offering financial relief. After seeing local dog walkers pick up countless furry clients at his building, Rodriguez decided to start his own business based in Tribe ca and Battery Park City.

Cuomo announced the NY on Pause order in mid-March, Rodriguez’s business was suddenly “nonexistent,” he said. As the city enters phase two of reopening and Rodriguez resumes normal services this week, he says he is still only doing about four walks a day.

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As people began staying at home with their pets or fleeing the city, Whistle & Wag’s business plummeted about 75% practically overnight on March 12. Although still a niche service, the market size of the dog walking industry in the U.S. is currently $1.1 billion, according to Griswold.

Several dog walkers that I spoke to said that they took advantage of the SBA loan provided by the city to keep their business afloat in hard times. Payne was expecting to add two new people in February and March to her team of five, but obviously couldn’t go through with the process once the pandemic hit.

Erin Donahue, who owns E-Walks and services Battery Park City and Boer um Hill where she lives, is optimistic that, with the record spike in dog adoptions in NYC over the past few months, the dog walking business could see a huge uptick in future customers. Anna Lie, the marketing director at Muddy Paws Rescue, says that they saw a 54% increase in dog adoptions at the beginning of the pandemic in NYC.

E-Walks has certainly been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis, but Donahue says that, once the panic subsides, people may start gravitating towards local dog walkers that will satisfy a more flexible schedule compared to larger dog walking companies. Most say that consistently wearing masks, using their own leashes, and avoiding human contact as much as possible is the key to the industry’s survival during the Covid-19 crisis.

To limit interactions, Rodriguez adjusted the hours of operation for Doors & Dawgs and no longer hosts weekend walks. And although Rodriguez is discontinuing group walks and trips to the dog park as a social distancing precaution, he still leaves it up to the client’s discretion.

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“But for the time being, we’ve adjusted our clients’ windows and coordinated with those who wanted services, so that everybody would have the opportunity to be walked separately.” After losing a beloved staff member and friend in April, Rodriguez took the time for inner soul-searching and began reconsidering his goals.

Trying to make the best of the situation at hand, he started a new business venture focused on creating treats and recipes for dogs. Gwyn ne Puentevella of Canine Fit Club. Gwynne and Gayness Puentevella, a sister duo who run Canine Fit Club, emphasize that although they don’t have set plans on when they’ll restart their business (which has been practically shut down since the start of lockdown), they are able to invest more time in themselves while recognizing that they really haven control over the situation.

Gwyn ne says that they will likely send a notice in July to customers about resuming business, which includes dog walks and pet sitting. But for the time being, the Puentevella sisters and their staff have managed to stay in touch through virtual chats and workout routines.

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