|Guidelines to be launched for dog walkers
A group of leading animal welfare organisations have joined forces to release a set of guidelines to ensure high welfare standards in the unregulated profession of dog walking.
The RSPCA is teaming with Dogs Trust and Pet Industry Federation (PIF) to produce the Professional Dog Walkers' Guidelines.
This is in a bid to ensure the best welfare for dogs who are being walked by professional dog walkers, as well as to assist the dog walkers in meeting the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.
Recent Dogs Trust research revealed that there is a growing demand for dog walkers, while 13 per cent admit to counting on them to ensure their dog gets enough exercise. With owners increasingly having more demanding working hours, a clear dependency on dog-walkers was emerging and it's this that led us to create these guidelines.
The guidelines serve to advise dog owners, Local Authorities and dog walkers on best practice to ensure man's best friend is protected.
Guidelines designed with dog welfare at their core
RSPCA's dog welfare expert Dr Sam Gaines said: "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. As well as to guarantee that dog walkers know what is expected of them.
'We hope these new guidelines will also help dog owners make informed decisions when choosing the right dog walker for them and their pet."
The industry is currently unregulated. To date only a small number of local authorities have introduced any form of regulation for local dog walkers and, as such, it can be a postcode lottery in terms of the quality of service provided by walkers.
Dogs Trust veterinary director, Paula Boyden, says: The unregulated dog walking industry is a minefield for owners and we want to make it safer for all involved. Worryingly, almost 60 per cent of owners have no contract or legal agreement in place with their dog walker to protect themselves and their dog.
Dog ownership has changed over the decades as our lives get busier. Our research has shown that 22 per cent of dogs spend four or more hours alone during the average weekday. Employing a dog walker helps ensure that your dog is not left alone for too long.
The survey also found that one-fifth of dogs were reported to, or had in the past, shown separation-related behaviour when alone. A simple solution to further reduce this number is the employment of a dog walker. These guidelines will help dog owners feel confident that their four-legged friends are in the best hands possible when they're not at home.
PIF CEO, Nigel Baker, said: "Professional dog walking is certainly a fast-growing pet service, both in its own right and as an additional service offered by a range of pet businesses. This makes it all the more important that a comprehensive framework exists to help guide businesses about best practice in dog walking; and provide dog owners with a benchmark of what they should look for when using a professional dog walker. By doing so, the intention is that these guidelines will raise standards in this unregulated industry and help safeguard animal welfare."