Changes to dog walking restrictions could have a ‘huge impact’ on dogs, their owners and local businesses, according to a professional dog walker.
Worthing’s Sarah Lucie-Payne has owned The Fur House for seven years, but said she feared reducing the number of dogs allowed to be walked together, from six to four, could harm the community.
“That two dogs difference has a huge impact and makes a massive difference,” she said. “Not only would it inconvenience us and the owners hugely, the dogs have to come first and they would be greatly affected.”
Last month, Adur and Worthing councils launched a consultation on amendments to dog walking rules to ‘address the small minority of irresponsible dog owners’.
Suggestions included reducing the maximum number of dogs to be walked from six to four, increasing an exclusion zone along Worthing beach and doubling fines for breaches to £100.
Sarah has joined fellow dog walkers Pet Professionals, owned by Joanna Reber and Sarah Treagus, in opposing the sanctions.
They said forcing professional walkers would ruin carefully choreographed walking plans as walkers are forced to make more trips to fit in all their customers.
Specific dogs were chosen to be walked together based on their interactions, they said, with some groups having been together for up to six years.
This extended to unruly dogs being taken on solo walks, with well-behaved animals kept together to ensure they can be monitored and controlled better.
Set timings were also planned around customers’ lives, particularly elderly and disabled people, which would be disrupted.
Dog walkers would be forced to take more trips, increasing fuel and insurance costs and leaving some working longer hours, with solo dog walkers alone on the Downs in the dark.
These extra pressures could cause some professionals to fold entirely, Sarah said, increasing the load on other walkers, owners and dogs.
“We would be happy to work with the councils to come to a compromise,” she said. “Even if that means paying to be licenced as professionals.”
Just four fines were handed out last year across Adur and Worthing - three in Worthing and one in Adur.