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Hampstead Heath bosses set for crackdown on dog walkers

08:00 02 February 2013

Dog walkers on Hampstead Heath. Picture: Polly Hancock

Dog walkers on Hampstead Heath. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Hampstead Heath bosses are piloting a scheme to put a tighter leash on the growing dog-walking industry on the open space.

Plans to limit the number of pet dogs walked at one time to four are to be trialled in Buckinghamshire in the spring by the City of London, which also manages the Heath.

The restriction could be rolled out across the Heath should the scheme prove a success.

In what would be a blow to the burgeoning dog-walking industry, dog walkers found flouting the new laws could face being hauled into court and fined up £1,000.

A spokesman for the City said: “Burnham Beeches is piloting the introduction of these controls. We will be awaiting the outcome before embarking on wider implementation across open spaces.”

Although the Heath Constabulary can prosecute dog walkers under bye-laws, new powers would allow officers to issue £75 penalty tickets. Dog bye-law offences have more than doubled in two years to 113 in 2012.

The issue has always been a bone of contention among Heath-lovers, with some claiming the powers are long overdue and others saying the beauty spot is already adequately policed.

Jane Whitefield, 56, of West Hampstead, walking pet dog Lola, said: “I think three is enough, it’s definitely a good idea to impose a limit. I’ve got a dog that scares other dogs, but she’s gotten used to walking past packs. It is intimidating for her, though.”

Sharon Wilson, 56, who walks her dogs Sean and Dior on the Heath, said: “There’s a guy around here who takes about 13 dogs out.It’s disgusting – they’re only doing it for the money.

“It’s all right until there’s a problem, but if something kicks-off they can become a pack.

‘‘How are they going to control all those dogs?”

But professional dog walkers insist it is not the number of pooches walked which causes problems, but a lack of experience among some walkers.

Renato Pagano, 31, who was walking eight dogs when he spoke to the Ham&High, said: “It depends, which dogs you have and how you handle them. You might have a group of four and you have trouble, or you might have a group of 12 and you don’t.”

Radek Zielinski, 39, a dog behaviourist and trainer, as well as a dog walker, said: “This is my passion, it’s my love; I can’t imagine any other job. If every dog walker was like that then it would be fine.”

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