Professional dog walkers have had to register for a dog walking licence in order to use Royal parks, since April last year. Professional dog walkers are charged a £300 yearly fee to make use of Royal parks.
Further new rules are placed on professional dog walkers, such as a dog walker may walk no more than 4 dogs at a time, along with being fully insured. Further costs are being imposed on commercial vehicles, made to pay a yearly fee of £100 to Royal Parks, as a further licence.
Parks operating under the control of local councils, rather than the Royal Parks’ hold have seen a huge influx of dog walkers making use of these parks around the country.
Richard Gentry, head of Hampstead Heath Constabulary, is reported as saying: “More and more people are coming to Hampstead Heath with their dogs in general and dog control for us is very important. We’re going to engage more with commercial dog walkers and other people with groups of dogs. We want to make sure the Heath is safe and pleasant for all users.”
He went on further to say: “There are concerns that people with large groups of dogs are not always able to keep an eye on all of them, or to pick up after each of their dogs. There are also fears around safety and that the dogs may act as a pack.”
Some professional dog walkers dispute whether small dog breeds such as Chihuahuas indeed might susceptible to becoming such a threat. As says Lucy Kennedy, of Happy Dogs.
The Hampstead Heath Constabulary has said it is to focus on dog walking over the next 12 months, with a series of engagement projects aimed primarily at commercial walkers.
Other areas of the UK have seen in dog control orders, where the number of dogs being walked are being limited to a certain amount. Dog walkers in Brighton, for instance, sign up to a professional code of conduct. This scheme is free and optional. Such a scheme requests for dog walkers to only walk the numbers of dogs their personal insurance dictates, which is usually up to six dogs a time.
Areas such as Oxford and Cambridge have too seen further controls being placed on dog walkers, where again restrictions to the amount of dogs being walked at a time have been limited.
And concerns are being raised as to the costs of dog walking having to increase. Some dog owners now no longer able to afford these increased dog walking rates.These challenges now faced by professional dog walkers have seen some leave their work and seek employment elsewhere.
Challenges such as reported dog attacks on other dogs, while under the control of professional dog walkers leave many unanswered questions. One can only hope we might see a national body of professional dog walking bodies being brought into fruition to discuss their work, concerns and set up national measures to help control such an organisation. And that all parties concerned with the use of parks nationally come together and discuss an outcome to better assist all concerned.