The license will not affect any owners with their own pets, and is purely for professional dog walkers who wish to use any of the Royal Parks for their services.
The license cost is £300 plus VAT with an extra £100 charge for any walkers who wish to use and park in any of the car parks in Richmond or Bushy Park. As well as a fee, all walkers will have to adhere to a code of conduct and guidelines aimed at keeping the park a pleasurable area for all users.
I totally agree with the concept of a license for professional dog walkers and a code of conduct. The new license will limit the number of dogs that can be walked by any one person to a maximum of 4 dogs, for which I am in agreement. I do not believe that more dogs can be controlled and as you all know I commit to only walking 4 dogs at any one time.
The other codes of conduct include picking up all dog mess, maintaining control of dogs at all time, and not allowing the dogs to chase any wildlife (birds, deer, squirrel). A full list of the code of conduct can be viewed at: http://www.royalparks.org.uk/business/commercial-dog-walking-licences/code-of-conduct-for-commercial-dog-walking-licence-holders
I personally agree with the majority of the guidelines set about, however I do think that the punishment (removal of the license) is quite harsh for times when for instance a dog chases a squirrel, which I do try to avoid, however is sometimes unavoidable.
Many of you may have read about the license in the press lately with many people having varying opinions. I have chatted with numerous other dog walkers in the park, and the majorities are in support of a license and are happy to pay a reasonable fee to use the park.
The main issues that this has brought about is the total lack of consultation prior to bringing the license in. The first I was told about the license is from a fellow professional dog walker the week before Easter, with the license coming in to effect from the 2nd April. The only consultation made to any walker was by 2 policemen who were stopping walkers at Sheen Gate in the week leading up to Easter. For those who weren’t at Sheen Gate at that time, there was no consultation at all.
I also believe that the fee is quite high, particularly when the car parking is factored in to the cost. Many walker’s may not be able to afford the license or may choose not to due to cost, and this will have a detrimental effect not only on the other smaller parks in the area where all walkers will migrate to, but also to the dogs that they walk who will miss out on the stimulation and fun that Richmond Park provides. There will also be higher numbers of walkers parking in the free roads surrounding the park (Fife Road, Cambrian Road, etc.) which may cause issues with the local residents.
And the price of the license may also deter any potential new walkers from setting up a business in the area.
The high cost will also have an impact on the price of dog walking services as professional walkers try to recoup some of the payout, and so I predict a rise in the cost of services in the areas surrounding Richmond Park.
Whilst I will not be affected initially by the capping of the number of dogs walked by one person, I can see that it will have an effect on those professional walkers who have until recently been walking 6 dogs per group. Richmond Borough Council sets the maximum limit at 6 dogs per walker, and so none of these walkers have been acting outside of any limits set by the council.
With an imposed limit to 4 dogs per walker, these walkers are now having to decide whether to let go of some of their current clients, thus reducing their earnings or try to squeeze in another walk which will result in more driving to collect / drop off dogs and so more petrol charges. Both options will have an impact on their service prices, and this will lead to a trend in the overall costs in the area.
For walkers like myself who already operate a 4 dog maximum, it will limit the way in which I can develop and expand my company to offer services to more dogs in the area, as it has an impact when hiring new walkers.
Sadly, through all of this, the dogs are the ones to lose out the most. For those walkers who cannot afford the license, the dogs will have less variety and therefore less stimulation in the smaller parks such as Marble Hill or Chiswick House. For those walkers who have to squeeze in another walk, the actual walk time will become less flexible and the dogs will have shorter walks.
And with a rise in cost, the customer’s may not be able to afford the same level of care from their walkers and may reduce their dogs’ outings to save on costs.
The Royal Parks have set an unofficial “grace period” for walkers to get all the paperwork together for the license, which I am in the process of doing and will keep you updated with the progress of my application. I will be hoping to successfully secure licenses for any employed walkers, and myself so that we can continue to walk the dogs in Richmond Park and maintain the quality of service that I have offered. If anyone has any questions then please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.
And if you do disagree with any aspects of the dog walkers license, a petition has been set up by the Association of Professional Dog Walkers (www.apdw.co.uk) to try to reduce the cost of the license, to address the lack of consultation and to try to increase the dog limit to 5 or 6. All signatures would be greatly appreciated! For more info
APDW Website: http://www.apdw.co.uk/news-and-events/