Businesses fear new ruling

wet  Pictured from left are Richie Holehouse, John Womersley, Lorraine Airth and Ian Clayton of The-Dogwalker.  100130M1.
wet Pictured from left are Richie Holehouse, John Womersley, Lorraine Airth and Ian Clayton of The-Dogwalker. 100130M1.
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a professional dog walker says council proposals to limit the the number of dogs walked by a single person could cripple his business.

Richie Womersley, from Aberford Road, Bramham, who set up The Dog Walker six years ago said he is furious about the new ruling by Leeds City Council which could see him lose 35 per cent of his business.

The council announced three measures this week that are designed to tackle owners who do not clear up after their pets, protect children’s health and deal with nuisance dogs

The new controls, which are due to come into force next month, state dogs will be excluded from children’s play areas in some parks, council staff will have the power to direct any owner to put their dog on a lead if it is causing a nuisance or annoyance and the number of dogs which can be walked by a single person at the same time will be limited to four.

Mr Womersley said he has absolutely no issue with two of the rulings.

“I completely agree children’s playgrounds are for children and not for dogs. I also agree that dog owners should be told to put nuisance dogs on a lead, but the restriction on numbers of dogs being walked will really affect professional dog walkers.

“I understand it is to try and curb dog fouling but this particular rule is only penalising the people who are running responsible businesses. I may be walking four or five dogs at a time but I also clear up after them, it is my responsibility.”

Mr Womersley said insurance companies will only insure a dog walker to walk a maximum of six dogs at any one time. He said the business usually kept to five regular dogs leaving a sixth lead for an emergency or on-off client.

“Limiting us to four at a time means we not only lose our emergency slot but one of our regular clients as well, which in this financial climate is not something we can afford to do. It is a real worry.”

Coun Tom Murray, executive member for environmental services at Leeds City Council has now agreed to meet professional dog walkers to discuss the issue with them. A special meeting was due to take place last night between dog walkers in the district to discuss their concerns and decide on the best way forward.

Mr Womersley has also teamed up with his local MP Alec Shelbrook who has written to LCC Executive Member as well as the Scrutiny Chair backing Richie and asking them to consider a permit system.

“Limiting a walker to four dogs specifically targets commercial dog walkers but Leeds City Council has not consulted with us as businesses. I understand the issue with dog fouling but it seems the people being penalised for it are not the ones responsible.”

The new rules, which are the result of a city-wide consultation, come into force on February 1 and breaches will result in a fine of up to £1,000.

Leeds City Council said it received almost 2,000 responses to the consultation with almost three-quarters coming from dog owners. Over the past year it said it had received 684 complaints about dog fouling, issued 96 fixed penalty notices for dog fouling and prosecuted 11 people.

Coun Tom Murray, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for environmental services, said: “We want to promote responsible dog ownership but there is a minority of owners who do not take those responsibilities seriously.

“I believe these controls will be welcomed by law-abiding and responsible dog owners, and by the wider public who grow tired of the dog dirt polluting our streets.”