Improve the new licensing scheme for professional dog walkers on Hampstead Heath.

Improve the new licensing scheme for professional dog walkers on Hampstead Heath.

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Hampstead professional dog walkers association started this petition to the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath, Highgate Woods and Queen’s Park Committee

The City of London (CoL) are introducing a new licensing scheme for dog walkers on Hampstead Heath, Queens Park & Highgate Wood that will impact local businesses and dog owners across North London. The restrictions, now rescheduled for introduction in October 2021, are being introduced amidst the Covid-19 crisis, meaning that small businesses already under severe financial pressures, cannot carry on under this new regulatory burden. 

The professional dog walking community welcomes regulation in principle, where it will help to protect members of the public, dogs, dog walkers and the Heath. However the measures proposed are so arbitrary and so draconian that more than sixty successful, small and medium sized enterprises, built with love and hard work over the years, will be forced to close as a result of the changes.  

With the rapid rise in puppy sales since the first lockdown back in March 2020, we expect to see a spike in demand for dog walking and dog sitting services across the city when many will be returning to work. If people are unable to access reliable dog daycare services it could have devastating repercussions for our customers and the dogs involved. These repercussions could include shelters becoming overwhelmed with dogs and dogs being left alone for prolonged periods of time, causing separation anxiety in the dogs as well as behavioural problems linked to a lack of socialisation. Dog walkers are an important part of the community. We do not just walk the dogs of the rich and the famous - a trope the media seem to love! We walk the dogs of the elderly and infirm, the mobility restricted and the key workers who will not be able to keep their pet without our services. 

The professional dog walkers submitted our concerns and suggestions to the CoL who agreed to engage in a meaningful dialogue with us. In those discussions some small progress has been made.

However, on the really important elements of the scheme we have still not received a substantive response to our concerns or proposals. In fact we have been told that “competing priorities have meant that officers have had to focus on other matters”. CoL promised us an Expression of Interest form which would enable them to gauge the level of demand for dog walking licenses. They promised this in November 2020 and it has not yet arrived. 

This dismally conceived policy is (re)scheduled to start in October. That does not give us professional dog walkers much time to help them shape a policy that is practical when they won’t meaningfully engage with us. Or to look for another job, and consolidate our debts, if the policy is to be introduced in its current form. CoL has still not obtained any real feedback from the professional dog walking community at large and they are unwilling to engage further with the Association on the principles that matter most.

In December last year we asked the City of London to amend the licensing scheme before it was too late, and this is what we asked them.

To delay the rollout of this policy, for a year, until businesses have had a chance to recover from the recession caused by Covid-19.
Continue to permit a six dog limit per walker, with a maximum of four dogs off lead at one time.
Not to introduce a cap on the number of licences available.
Not to introduce time restricted slots for walkers.
To make the new licenses transferrable between people working within a company.
To ensure that the application process is simple and accessible. 

We invite you to read our position paper and to see why we have made these proposals. They are entirely reasonable and satisfy the stated objectives of the CoL Heath strategy. CoL agreed to our Requests 1, 4, 5 and 6. Although we are grateful for those concessions please do not be under the illusion that they represent a gift. They were part of a rushed and ill considered policy, full of conditions which do not exist anywhere else and are not appropriate to these parks and these businesses. The withdrawal of those elements, when we explained how pointlessly damaging they would be, is a relief but hardly a compromise. 

The core elements of the licensing scheme remain unchanged:  forty licensees allowed to walk four dogs per walk. We have explained to CoL that there are more than sixty companies operating. Some of whom (with multiple employees) will need more than one license. Four dogs, one of which is usually the dog walkers’ own dog, is in reality three dogs. Three dogs, after cancelations, sick days, holidays etc. is in reality two dogs. Two dogs per walk, if you are one of the lucky ones who obtains a license… is not a business. And how do you run a business when every year you have to enter a lottery to see if you are still allowed to run a business!? 

The arguments against the 40 licence/ 4 dog limit are too many for a summary like this one. But everything boils down to this: We are small businesses trying to stand on our own two feet. We don’t ask for handouts, we pay our taxes, we clean up after ourselves and we love our community. We welcome a licensing scheme but not one that suffocates us. We apologise for the language. But this is our livelihoods, under threat, without cause. 

If you would like to express your support please sign our petition. 

This is what is fair: 

1. ’No limit on licenses’ so that everyone is able to continue working. Instead of limiting them at the outset, licenses should in the future be withdrawn from operators who breach their licensing conditions. 

2. Walkers should be allowed to continue to walk up to six dogs on the condition that only four are allowed off-lead at once. Walkers are insured to do so, they are trained to do so, and their license will only permit them to walk dogs professionally if they are competent. If they are not, the license can be withdrawn. 

If you leave us your email address we might send you one more request for help in the future. We will not bombard you with updates or requests and we will not be fund-raising. We might need to marshal letters of support from the broader community who agree with us that this policy is unnecessarily oppressive and can be improved for the benefit of everyone.  

You can find us on social media @hampsteadpdwa.


0 have signed. Let’s get to 7,500!
At 7,500 signatures, this petition becomes one of the top 10% on in the UK!