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My labrador was attacked by three dogs on the Heath

07 January, 2021

‘Limiting the number of dog walkers and the number of dogs in their charge is sensible, so that everybody who uses the Heath can do so more safely and enjoyably’

• IN her letter (Flawed new rules planned for professional dog walkers, December 31), Natalie Scott casts doubt on official figures for incidents involving dogs on Hampstead Heath.

My labrador was attacked on the Heath last year by three dogs in the charge of paid dog walkers. Mine was on the lead, they were not.

I was able to retrieve him before he suffered serious physical injury, but being only one year old he was traumatised.

My other labrador, then over 10 years old, was also frightened by the incident. Even now we have to make detours when we see paid dog walkers heading towards us.

When I remonstrated with the two dog walkers, out together with a large pack (around 10 to 12) of dogs, they shouted abuse and told me to keep out of the way.

After the incident I complained to the City of London Corporation and am therefore one of the cases that Ms Scott seeks to disparage. The new rules for paid dog walkers who operate on Hampstead Heath are welcome and overdue.

Many other parks and open spaces have long had regulations for dog walkers and because the Heath didn’t, more of them have moved there; exacerbating the problem.

The term “professional” dog walker sounds reassuring. However no qualifications are needed and anyone can set themselves up in business.

Some operate in pairs, which means they can have a large number of dogs in their charge. Because these dogs are often not very familiar with each other, they can be excitable and noisy and the packs are unstable.

Dog walkers often struggle to control them. Also, with so many dogs often running in different directions, it is impossible for the walker to always spot when one of them is defecating.

If a dog walker is inexperienced, and one of the dogs is aggressive, it can lead to the sort of distressing and potentially dangerous situation such as that which happened to my dog.

I have sometimes wondered if dog owners could actually see some of walkers in operation whether they would remain happy to send their dog out with them.

During the lockdowns, because more people have been based at home they have been able to walk their own dogs.

This has led to fewer paid dog walkers on the Heath, which has made for a more pleasant experience for others out for a stroll, with or without dogs.

While people continue to want to own dogs and then go out to work for the day there will be a need for paid dog walkers.

However at the moment there are too many unlicensed, uncontrolled, inexperienced, dog walkers operating on the Heath at any one time.

Limiting the number and the number of dogs in their charge is sensible, so that everybody who uses the Heath can do so more safely and enjoyably.

I would have thought that paid dog walkers who are serious about their business would welcome this.



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