Parks clamp down on mass walkies

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The Independent Online
DOG rationing is being imposed in an effort to combat commercial dog walkers. The moves come amid reports of professional walkers - who exercise pets for owners too busy or infirm to go out themselves - exercising up to 70 animals at a time in unleashed packs that intimidate other park users, writes Mark Rowe.

Now the message, backed up by regulations and fines, is that you must not exercise man's best friends in hordes.

The Royal Parks Agency, which manages and polices eight parks in London on behalf of the Crown, is the latest to put up notices at its park entrances. The law, drawn up under Royal Parks regulations, stipulates that dog owners must not exercise more than four dogs at a time, two of which must be on a lead.

The move follows a series of incidents, including one at the agency's Richmond Park in south-west London, where three walkers were seen with 52 dogs near the Royal Ballet School.

A spokesman for the Royal Parks Agency said: "We don't believe a person can control more than four dogs at once."

The practice of commercial dog walking is booming as increasing numbers of owners, feeling guilty at being unable to walk their dogs, pay a third party to do it for them. With walkers charging between pounds 6 and pounds 15 per dog, depending on size,it can also be lucrative.

But it can easily get out of hand, as it did on Wimbledon Common, where legislation was introduced two years ago. "We were getting up to 20 commercial dog walkers off-loading their dogs on the park from vans. One was bringing 70 dogs a day," said Daphne Jones, a ranger for Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators.

Fines for breaching the Conservators' six-dog rule, however, are only pounds 25. The Royal Parks Agency fines are more stringent, ranging from pounds 75 to pounds 200.

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