Capalino+Company client Wag!, an on-demand dog walking platform, has been making the lives of New York City dog owners a little easier since 2015. The company’s innovative solution to a common urban problem has helped them expand service to over 100 cities across the country.
Since its inception, Wag! has built their business on a foundation of safety and trust, which has played an important role in their success. This week the company announced the appointment of an advisory board comprised of leading veterinarians, trainers and representatives from law enforcement, to further ensure the safety and well-being of its community of dogs, pet parents, and dog walkers.
Capalino+Company Associate Vice President Chante Harris sat down with Wag! CEO Hilary Schneider and Heather Rothenberg, Vice President of Trust and Safety, to discuss their commitment to New York City and the company’s trust and safety protocols.
1. What is Wag! and how does it work?
Hilary Schneider (HS): Our company was born from a love of dogs, and an entrepreneurial spirit, with the goal of making pet parenting a little bit easier and more accessible — to alleviate some of the hassle and stress of pet ownership in urban areas. We were the first to create an on-demand dog walking platform to connect a community of local dog walkers with pet parents. Our trusted walkers, sitters and boarders provide loving care, attention, and exercise to dogs across the country. We started in Los Angeles in 2015, and we now provide service in 43 states and over 100 cities, including New York, which has been a priority for us.
2. What brought you to Wag!?
HS: I joined Wag! as CEO in February, 2018. I’ve been a pet parent for a very long time, so Wag!’s focus on using technology to help dogs and their parents was appealing to me because of my love for animals, and my own experience as a pet parent. I saw an opportunity to apply my background in tech with my passion for dogs, and the company’s mission and core ideals really sealed the deal.
3. How does Wag! impact local communities? What programs are specific to New York?
HS: Through our donation program with GreaterGood.org, we provide pet food for dog rescue groups across the country. I’m proud to say we recently hit a milestone of 5 million meals. In the New York City area, the program has served seven animal-welfare organizations: Second Chance NYC, Loving Paws (Brooklyn), Happy Tails Dog Rescue (Brooklyn), NYC New Beginning Animal Rescue (Bronx), Louie’s Legacy (Staten Island), Feline Rescue of Staten Island, and The American Street Cat (NYC). In July of this year, we announced the launch of our first community-impact grant program for New York City-based animal-welfare organizations. We’ve awarded grants of $5,000 each to nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations that demonstrate excellence and growth in three impact areas: dog parks, rescue organizations, and shelters. Our awardees include Animal Care & Control of NYC, Muddy Paws Rescue, PAWS NY, Bide-A-Wee Home Association, and Washington Square Park Dog Run.
4. You’ve been operating in New York since 2015, what are your priorities as you look to the future?
HS: Safety and trust among our walkers and owners is always a focus for us, so we recently created an executive-level position to oversee this area and ensure we’re always improving and bolstering relationships within the community. Our new Vice President of Trust and Safety, Heather Rothenberg, has extensive experience managing safety strategy and policy for several large-scale organizations, including Uber, the U.S. Department of Transportation, where she worked for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration. She’s also worked with local and state agencies around the country to implement cross-functional safety efforts through collaboration with advocacy and community groups.
5. What does ‘safety and trust’ mean to Wag!?
Heather Rothenberg (HR): I think successful safety efforts are holistic. In our case, this includes thinking about the walker, the owner, the dog, and the communities we serve. Walker onboarding is certainly an important piece of that, in addition to thinking about the safety of everyone who is in any way connected to or impacted by our platform. For example, we’ve implemented an emergency button in our walker app, so walkers have a direct connection to live help if they have questions about the dog or service, or if they have concerns for their own safety.
6. What are your primary goals as the new VP of Trust and Safety
HR: In the short-term I’m focused on three major initiatives:
- Building out a team of specialists in key areas; policy, data analysis, special case management, and more localized safety. We’re also hiring a regional safety manager here in New York.
- Improving the user experience in the event of an ‘ incident’. Animals can be unpredictable and unexpected things do happen, so it’s critical that we look closely at the things we’ve done well and identify the areas where we can do better.
- Formally engaging industry experts to help us improve our existing processes, including walker onboarding.
7. What’s the biggest opportunity for Wag!’s growth over the next few years?
HR: One of the great things about Wag! is that we can learn something or try something new in one market and apply it to other markets very quickly. We can also use our network and our technology to implement changes and react to consumer needs on a hyper-local level. A dog walk in Los Angeles is very different from a walk in New York City or Chicago or Miami, so we can adapt and provide a different, more market-centric experience for our communities across the country. We’re already doing this in NYC, and I’m excited to continue advancing this work and seeing how it can be replicated in other areas in the region.
To learn more about Wag’s commitment to pets’ safety, check out Heather’s recent post here.
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