Calls for dog walkers to be regulated in UK

The RSPCA and the City Of London Corporation are two organisations calling for dog walkers to be regulated because it’s getting out of hand. Some dog walkers are perhaps unsuited to the job and some walk up to 10 dogs at one time which questions whether they are able to control them properly.

The City Of London Corporation manages Hampstead Heath which is London’s largest common land area and where you will often see dog walkers. There have been complaints about walkers with more than 10 dogs as they struggle to control them.

Dog walker near Central Park NYC with eleven dogs
Dog walker near Central Park NYC with eleven dogs. Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.

Between October 2018 and October 2020 there were 343 dog-related incidents. Six of them went to court. The corporation have suggested that under a licensing scheme they would issue 20 licences for morning walks and 20 for the afternoon.

Another point worth making is that as professional dog walkers enjoy the benefits of Hampstead Heath they should pay towards its upkeep. Sam Gaines, the RSPCA’s head of the companion animals department questions whether one person is able to control a large number of dogs and adequately provide for their welfare especially when some of them are large and “warrior dogs”. She wants dog walkers to be included in animal welfare regulations and numbers limited to 4 dogs per person.

At the moment there is no dog licensing system for commercial dog walkers. She believes that dog walkers need to be checked for suitability and knowledge of animal welfare.

While the vast majority of dog-walkers are in that profession because they love dogs, there are going to be some people who see it as an easy way to make money”. – Paula Boyden veterinary director of Dogs Trust.

Perhaps it is the unqualified people who present a problem to the public when and if they take out too many dogs which they are unable to control adequately. The counterargument is that dog walking, although a freelance profession, does not bring in a lot of income (but see below for NYC). It is not a high earning form of self-employment and if you restrict the number of dogs it may become untenable as a business. This thought is promoted by Kris Sikora, the general manager of Green Dog Walking. He said that if you have restrictions for dogs and then some cancellations, which occurs from time to time, you end up in a situation where a dog walking session becomes financially unviable.

An alternative viewpoint comes from Laura Goodman of Little Legs Dogs Walking. She said that the limit of four with respect to big dogs would be a good idea but that the limit should be no lower than five or six for small dogs.

I have alluded to the fact that dog walkers don’t make much money in London. Perhaps I am completely incorrect. In America it is reported that dog walkers can make up to $200,000 annually! Perhaps the clients are rich which is why they can charge so much. The photograph on this page shows a dog walker making her way up Fifth Avenue near New York’s Central Park. She has 11 dogs in her charge. Perhaps that is how they make their money but what do the dogs think about it? Do they get stressed or do they enjoy it?

And think of the logistics in collecting 11 dogs from different locations in New York. Then getting them all into a van and then out of the van without losing one! Perhaps they earn their money because it seems as if it’s very complicated and fraught with potential dangers.

It also begs the question, as far as I am concerned, as to whether some dog owners are able to own a dog. If dog owners have to rely so much on dog walkers is not fair to ask whether they should own a dog in the first place?

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