Hundreds oppose Hampstead Heath dog walker licence scheme

Professional dog walkers use Hampstead Heath every day

Professional dog walkers use Hampstead Heath every day - Credit: @canineteendog

More than 1,800 people have signed a petition calling for a rethink of new rules for professional dog walkers on Hampstead Heath.

Spearheaded by the Hampstead Professional Dog Walkers Association (HPDWA) – which has 63 members – campaigners say the City of London Corporation's (CoLC) planned licensing scheme limiting professional dog walking on the Heath to 40 licences is "dismally misconceived".

Instead, they want there to be 100 licences allowing up to six dogs.

Enrique Quintano, who runs the Camden Hands dog walking business, said: "We love the Heath, we love and respect it. It’s a privilege to live in London and it’s a paradise for dogs."

The new licences are set to come into effect in October, costing £300 and only allowing professionals to walk four dogs at a time.

Enrique said this would make it hard for some to make a living as they also have insurance and transport costs.

The CoLC said the scheme and a new 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”. 

It is estimated that 800 dogs are taken for a walk every day by professionals on the Heath.

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Edward Freeman, of HPDWA, said: “With the  rapid rise in puppy sales since the first lockdown back in March 2020, we expect to see a spike in demand for dog-walking and dog-sitting services across the city when many will be returning to work.

“If people are unable to access reliable dog daycare services it could have devastating repercussions for our customers and the dogs involved."

He said consequences could include shelters "becoming overwhelmed" or dogs developing separation anxiety or behavioural problems.

He added: “How ridiculous it would be if central government said: ‘We are only going to allow 300 plumbers to work in London this year.'”

He feared that some dog walkers would go out of business.

A CoLC spokesperson said: “The code of conduct and licensing scheme have been carefully developed taking into account the views of private and professional dog walkers and Heath users.

“The number of licences will be kept under review and if additional licences can be issued without commercial activity impacting on the wildlife, natural aspect and visitor enjoyment of the Heath, this will be considered.”

They said talks with the dog walkers would continue.