03/04/2013 12:42 BST | Updated 02/06/2013 06:12 BST

Why the Royal Parks Needs Their Professional Dog Walkers

As of 2 April 2013, London's Royal Parks (inc Bushy Park and Richmond Park) are licensing professional dog walkers and have decided the maximum number of dogs that can be walked at one time will be 4.

Whilst dog walkers welcome licensing and regulation, the 4-dog limit is too low and it appears it has been set WITHOUT consulting the dog industry, despite Greater London

Authority stating that "the GLA must consult widely on any major changes

to the Royal Parks".

The 4 dog limit will devastate solo dog walking businesses, who will struggle to pay for increasing fuel, liability insurance, vehicle servicing, repairs & insurance. And many customers would not be able to bear the 30-50% price increase that a 4-dog limit will create, making services unaffordable to average income dog owners who may be forced to leave their dogs home alone for long periods or even rehome their pets!

Dogs give families so much, and teach children about joy that is not materialistic. Dogs also teach children empathy and responsibility. It will be a terrible thing if poorer working families are priced out of dog ownership.

Professional dog walkers are a vital part of many working families' lives, allowing them the joy and health benefits of a dog in the family, though they may have to work full time. Professional Dog walkers need to be supported and allowed to earn a

living. They cannot earn a living doing the job they love with a 4 dog limit. Nor should they. Provided the dogs being walked are well behaved and well socialised, a group of six should be no problem. Responsible dog walkers do not walk dogs that are not well behaved anyway, it simply doesn't make sense to do so. To walk in a pack, a dog needs to be social, hence, most dog walkers have peaceful groups.

It's unacceptable there has been no consultation from the Royal Parks with professional dog walkers, industry experts, owners and the general public on this unaffordable scheme - at nearly £1000 per year for permits to walk in both Richmond and Bushy Parks. On 12 /10/12, Mayor Boris Johnson said "My aim is to ensure that they (Royal Parks) are managed in a way that best meets the needs of all their users but with Londoners having better ways to have their views taken into account."

The 6-dog Limit has been a great success in Richmond Borough. Since implementing it last year (after a successful petition and help from the Association of Professional Dog Walkers!) not a single complaint has been registered! So why not make The Royal Parks Limit, 6 Dogs?

Professional dog walkers agree that the industry needs to be regulated, but the

regulations need to be nationwide, affordable, reasonable and workable for the

Professionals, the client but most importantly the welfare of the dogs.

Reducing the number of dogs will increase the number of trips by car to the park, causing more traffic and pollution on the roads. Royal Parks such as Richmond, are also virtually empty on weekdays and made far safer by professional dog walkers.

While everyone welcomes Royal Parks decision to finally regulate and license commercial dog walkers, by refusing to consult with the

industry and choosing to set the maximum number of dogs at 4, this will cause many dog walkers income to be cut by up to 30%, forcing dog walkers to increase the cost of dog walking, pricing many dog owners from the market.

The 4-dog limit will impact on dog owners with multiple dogs and/or low or average incomes. Being forced to pay more for dog walkers, every facet

of the dog industry will be affected negatively.

In recessionary Britain, this coalition government professes to be a friend to business, yet this policy will result in job losses and price out dog owners who need to go out to work (to pay taxes) and have to employ the essential services of a professional dog walker to do so.