Dog walkers face regulation over number of pets

It’s not always clear whether they’re taking dogs for a walk or vice-versa.

It’s not always clear whether they’re taking dogs for a walk or vice-versa.

But professional dog walkers in the Capital soon could be put firmly on the leash, following reports of out-of-control pets in their care.

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Councillors are set to discuss whether the city’s booming dog-walking trade should be regulated.

It could lead to commercial dog walkers, who charge up to £12 an hour to exercise other people’s animals, being forced to obtain licences or see a maximum number of dogs they can care for at any one time.

Sources say some dog walkers take charge of up to 16 animals on a walk – leading to concerns of an increased danger of attacks on other pets or humans.

Councillor Ricky Henderson tabled the motion calling for the council to consider regulation, after he was approached by constituents who had been jumped on by a dog walker’s pack of apparently uncontrollable hounds.

He said: “In that case the dogs didn’t do any physical harm, but they did cause alarm. I have raised the issue at community council meetings and other people said they have had similar experiences.

“I’ve heard of people walking ten dogs or more at a time and that does seem too many. We need to consider whether certain controls need to be placed on these activities.”

It is anticipated that any fees charged to dog walkers would cover administration costs of providing licences.

Established walkers in Edinburgh agreed that some form of regulation was necessary.

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Brian Armstrong, 56, set up his company, Walkies, in 1991 and claims to be the first person in Edinburgh to commercially walk pets.

He said: “This has been a long time coming. I would support a maximum number of dogs. If someone is experienced and knows what they’re doing eight is OK.

“But there are greedy people and they try to squeeze as many dogs as possible in their van.”

Around 18 months ago Mr Armstrong’s wife, Moira, quit her job as a office manager to join the business.

Mr Armstrong added: “It looks easy but it’s not. A lot of people try it and fall by the wayside. When I started no-one had heard of it but now it’s the norm to have a dog walker.”

Richard Thomson set up his pet-care business, Edinburgh Dog Walkers, six years ago.

He said he would welcome regulation of the dog-walking trade in Edinburgh.

He added: “I would say walking five dogs at a time is OK. It depends on the dogs or how long a walk is for. Four is a nice number, while six or seven would be the maximum.

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“Walking ten dogs or more at once is crazy. Some do appear to have far too many dogs. I would welcome regulation providing it doesn’t involve costly licences.

“A lot of it comes down to common sense, but there are those who push the boundaries and can’t control the dogs.”

He added: “Some keep dogs in their van and say they’re walking them – it does go on.”

A council spokesman said: “The motion will be considered by the regulatory committee on Friday.

“If agreed, a full report on the options for regulating the number of dogs controlled by dog walkers will be presented to a future meeting of this committee.”

Boning up on the business

COMMERCIAL dog walking became big business in America before it spread across the Atlantic.

The first man in Edinburgh to move into the trade, Brian Armstrong, started his company after he saw dog walking featured on a programme set in New York.

At the time he was facing losing his job as a delivery driver.

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Since then, the trade has exploded in Edinburgh, with hundreds of people offering dog-walking services.

Clients are usually professionals who work long hours and are unable to regularly exercise their pets. Some elderly people with limited mobility also make use of the service.

“It was very unusual when I started,” Mr Armstrong said. “For a year or so I was the only person doing it. Within the last eight years or so it’s got really big.”

On average, a walker takes around six dogs out at a time. They often walk three sets of dogs each day.

If a dog walker kept that schedule five days a week charging £9 per walk, they would make a basic annual salary of more than £40,000.