A LOCAL council is set to licence professional dog walkers in a bid to control increasingly large numbers of dogs from running free in the borough’s parks.
Wandsworth Council in south London have introduced a new bylaw means that professional dog walkers will soon need licences before they can take four or more hounds out for walks in the borough's parks. From July, they will have to sit a test to see how well they can control their charges or face prosecution.
Wandsworth has said large groups of dogs can intimidate other park users. It is the first council in the country to take this step.
The lucrative trade sees full-time dog walkers exercising up to 20 pets at a time in exchange for cash - with some enterprising folk coming from as far afield as Tunbridge Wells, in Kent.
The council's dog wardens will then decide where, when and how many canines the dog walker can take out.
Wandsworth was given the new power by the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs last week.
Kathy Tracey, the borough's head of environmental services, said: "Many councillors have been written to by people who say they are too frightened to visit parks because they are terrified of these large packs of dogs running wild together. Many fear for the safety of their pets when confronted by a large pack of dogs.
"While most professional dogwalkers are absolutely fine, sadly there are a few who have neither the experience nor the expertise to handle large numbers of dogs."
Wandsworth’s dog wardens and the parks police will enforce the rules.
No one individual walker will be allowed more than eight dogs at a time.
Professional dog walker Joanne Cooper welcomed the move but thought the upper limit was still too many.
Ms Cooper, 35, of Godley Road, Earlsfield, said: "I don't use Wandsworth parks because of the large groups of uncontrolled dogs. I have seen two women in Battersea Park with about 30 dogs between them. It was chaos and the noise was terrible.
"The animals weren't under proper control and someone could have got hurt."