Hampstead Heath dog walking licences could 'destroy businesses', say walkers

Some of the dogs who are professionally walked on the Heath.

Some of the dogs who are professionally walked on the Heath. - Credit: CaNineteen Dogs

A controversial licensing scheme for commercial dog walkers on Hampstead Heath '"will destroy businesses", according to those who make their living doing just that.

The City of London Corporation (CoLC) has revealed plans for a mandatory licensing scheme in November. It is set to take effect in April 2021. 

The scheme limits each commercial walker to four dogs. Walkers will have to pay for licenses which are for allocated time slots of 7am-12pm and 12pm-5pm. 

There will be 20 licenses available for each time slot, making 40 licenses in total. 

Ryan Dalton, communications manager for the Hampstead Professional Dog Walkers Association (HPDWA), said the licenses available will not cover all the businesses using Hampstead Heath. The HPDWA itself has 60 members. 

He said: “The HPDWA believes the scheme is unprecedented in scope and severity and, in essence, […] will destroy businesses.” 

Ryan said the time slots, number of dogs and licences allowed would all make it difficult for businesses to run. 

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Warren Kirk of Premier Dog Walkers added: “After the year we’ve all had, you just think the light at the end of the tunnel is coming, and next year we’ll […] try and keep going. 

“But when I got the news my heart sank. I thought: ‘That’s it. It’s a completely unviable business now.’” 

Six dogs walked by Woofridges on Hampstead Heath.

Six dogs walked by Woofridges on Hampstead Heath. - Credit: Woofridges

According to a CoLC report, the Heath Constabulary recorded 343 dog-related incidents on Hampstead Heath between October 2018 and October 2020. 

A CoLC spokesperson said the licensing scheme and code of conduct were developed by taking into account the views of both private and professional dog walkers. 

They added: “The licensing scheme is consistent with the approach being taken at other open spaces across London.

“The licensing scheme and the voluntary code of conduct […] are aimed at protecting the wildlife of the Heath and ensuring it remains a welcoming and enjoyable place for everyone to visit and use.”

The number of licences will be kept under review, and it will consider issuing more licences if walkers do not impact the Heath.

The HPDWA and the City of London have had a meeting to discuss their concerns.