As the dog walking industry booms, new guidelines are being drawn up to protect the welfare of the animals concerned. But do these unofficial regulations go far enough?
By, 19 Oct 2019
According to The Express, an estimated 22% of dogs are forced to spend four or more hours at home. That has led to more owners than ever hiring a professional dog walker to look after their dog. But with only a handful of local authorities having drawn up regulations for the owners of dog walking services - and still no statutory framework - questions are being asked of the safety of animals.
In August of this year the Mail Online ran a story about Glaswegian Lynne Reid who in 2017, believing her dog walker Helen Campbell to be reliable, left her dog Milly to be looked after while she went to work.
Unbeknown to Ms Reid, Milly was herded along with seven other dogs into the back of a van belonging to the care worker. In the summer heat Campbell left the dogs to bake in what turned out to be a fatal 40 degrees. Milly and one other dog in the care of Campbell died.
Tragically, in the court case that followed Reid discovered that Campbell already had previous convictions for animal cruelty.
Busy dog owners who look to dog walkers to help out may be relieved at the introduction of new guidelines. Leading animal charities have come together to try to improve welfare standards. The RSPCA, Dogs Trusts and Pet Industry Federation have drawn up the Professional Dog Walkers’ Guidelines.
Of the guidelines RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Sam Gaines told The Express, “Dog walkers are currently unregulated and unlicensed meaning there are no checks on who these people are and how they ensure the needs of the dogs in their care are being met.
“We felt it was extremely important – not only for the welfare of dogs but also for dog walkers themselves – to produce a set of guidelines to ensure that dogs are always being well looked after and to guarantee that dog walkers know what is expected of them.”
But without a legal backdrop, the guidelines amount only to a list of advisories, warning owners of what to look out for when searching for a dog walker.
In truth, anyone can set themselves up as a walker and charge as much as £20 an hour per dog. No background checks or licences are required, nor is there a limit to how many dogs a walker can take on at a time.
To make matters worse, not only are the dogs at risk from unscrupulous workers. Many owners lend dog walkers access to their house as well.
Clearly it is time for a Bill of sorts to regulate the industry and prevent further dog deaths at the hands of crooked dog walkers.