We Want Equal Opportunities for Professional Dog Walkers!

12/11/2012 16:14 GMT | Updated 09/01/2013 10:12 GMT

You'd think the biggest hurdle facing professional dog walker are untrained dogs, stinky traffic, poop on your shoes and the occasional grumpy citizen who has an aversion to mutts. Yet recently, I discovered my local friendly borough council to be less than helpful. It appears a two tier system applies to professional dog walkers. There are dog walkers with multiple dog walking permits (able to walk up to 8 dogs) and those without! Although Wandsworth, Wimbledon, Barnes, Putney and Battersea borough councils and others invite applications for professional dog walkers to apply for multiple walking licences, don't hold your breath, the cupboard is bare! I recently applied for licenses with several boroughs (which takes a while, gathering insurance docs, vet references etc), expecting an interview (as stated on their website) only to find after many weeks of wrangling and chasing my application to be told that their quota is full and they're not issuing any more! If you have one, you're very lucky, and if not, it's much harder to earn a living as a professional dog walker. A lot of these licences were issued some years ago and often the holders no longer walk dogs or even live in the area. At best the policy of offering multiple walking licenses to one group of people and not to another seems unfair?

What ever happened to equal opportunities?

"Equal opportunities refers to an equal distribution, among individuals, of opportunities for education, training, employment, career development and the exercise of power without their being disadvantaged on the basis of their sex, race, language, religion, economic or family situation, and so forth. Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 contains provisions to implement the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation."

Earlier this year we professional dog walkers ran a successful campaign to persuade Richmond Borough (which excludes Richmond Park, being a Royal Park) to allow us to walk a maximum of 6 dogs at a time. We were overwhelmed by the support from the local community who didn't relish the thought of being priced out of dog ownership by being unable to afford dog walkers who would have been forced to walk a maximum of 4 dogs at a much higher premium.

At Wimbledon Common and Battersea Park, dog walkers are limited to walking 4 dogs, unless they have a much coveted multiple license. If you have a golden ticket to walk six dogs, or in some areas, eight dogs, gained in years gone by, you have a financial advantage over anyone else who is trying to earn a living as a professional dog walker.

Dog walking provides a valuable service to many dog owners in the community and offers a great job opportunity, especially in a recession.

In the United States, cities like Chicago and New York are way ahead. Local authorities sell licences to professional dog walkers at a reasonable price. We dog walkers would be more than happy to pay a reasonable annual fee, which would raise funds for local authorities, improve our parks and would encourage a more responsible professional dog walking attitude. Dog walking has become a respectable business and we need to work in harmony with our local authorities. This injustice needs to be righted.

Additionally, in Richmond Park, the Park Police seem to operate a less than transparent policy where some dog walkers known to them are allowed to walk groups of six or many more dogs unchecked, while others are harassed or banned.

Whilst it's supposed to be illegal to operate a commercial business in Richmond and any Royal Park, its patently obvious to any user of Richmond Park that this is not so.

Though you cannot run a business that uses Richmond Park, they do sell licences to horse riding stables and fitness classes, so why not dog walkers? If we were licensed, dog walkers who flouted the rules could be stripped of their licences. It would encourage greater control and greater responsibility.