The federal government shutdown has hit an unlikely victim: Capitol Hill dog walkers.
Furloughed federal employees and would-be tourists are home, and small business owners are pinching pennies. While the canines of Capitol Hill are happy for the all-day company, the dog walkers are left lonely -- and broke.
Revenues are down about 20% for Grace Steckler's Saving Grace Pet Care business since the furloughs started 10 days ago.
Steckler's 30 walkers, many of them grad students scrambling to make ends meet, are paid per dog walk. "If they don't walk they don't get paid," Steckler says. "I have fixed expenses that I need to pay no matter what. My main concern is that my dog walkers are able to make the money they need."
Karl Sidenstick, an animal care manager at Saving Grace, says he is walking fewer dogs than usual. "A couple of the clients called me in tears," he says. "They don't know how long it's going to be so they just can't afford it."
Angelique Dorazio-Sanders, owner of Loving and Secure, a Pet Valet Service, is concerned that if the shutdown lasts much longer, she will have to furlough some of her employees. "I just bought the business six or seven months ago. You know what your daily quota needs to be... If you go below that it gets scary."
Dorazio-Sanders has stopped advertising. "I don't see the point If people aren't going to be taking the flyers," she says. "Usually this is the kind of business where you have to advertise constantly."
However, if things don't pick up, she is considering furlough specials to encourage more people to try her business.
Kathleen Murray says her company, Zoolatry, lost about a third of their typical business on Capitol Hill.
"Thank god we operate all over the city because the people in other areas aren't as affected," Murrary says. "It's not just the people who are furloughed who are suffering. It's the small businesses."