Dogs in field
Dog Walkers,  Lead

Surrey may tighten controls on dog walkers after Caterham death

Tandridge District Council has agreed to launch a consultation on tighter measures for dog walkers, following Natasha Johnston’s death in January 2023.

Measures could include reduced limits on the number of dogs to be walked, keeping dogs on leads and dog-free zones across Tandridge.

The decision was made during a meeting of the council’s community services committee heard warnings about the risk to dog-walking businesses if some measures were introduced and the difficulty of enforcing them.

The consultation will seek the public’s opinion on a number of proposed actions, including:

  • Maximum number of dogs a person is allowed to walk – setting it to four. Any person who is witnessed walking more than four dogs would be guilty of an offence.
  • Dogs on Leads (not more than 1.5 metres in length) and Dogs on lead by direction (not more than 1.5 metres in length) – a person in charge of a dog shall be guilty of an offence if the person is not holding a dog on a lead in a public space and also if the person does not comply with a direction by an authorised officer to put and keep the dog on a lead of not more than 1.5 metres in length.
  • Dog exclusion – It is proposed that all dogs (with the exception of Guide Dogs or Special Assistance Dogs) would be excluded from certain areas, such as children’s play areas. It is proposed that a person in charge of a dog shall be guilty of an offence if the person does not comply with a direction given by an authorised officer to remove a dog from prohibited areas.

Hayley Hamilton-Herbert, founder and Chief Executive of Simply the Pets, told the meeting that with the dog walking industry currently unregulated, she said many local dog walkers felt that licensing currently was “no more than a money-making exercise” offering nothing in return.

She added that unlicensed walkers could either continue to travel “a mile up the road” to neighbouring boroughs if rules were changed in Tandridge, simply moving the problem elsewhere.

Hamilton-Herbert also raised concerns about the loss of income for dog walkers that would come from any reduction in numbers, a need to increase rates and the impact this would have on businesses and the people paying for it.

She added: “As someone who lives and breathes this industry, this is what I propose.

“We make the licence something to be desired, a community walkers want to be a part of. This could include being added to a Tandridge Council recommended list of walkers, getting a licenced walker sticker to put on our vehicles and an armband to be worn whilst walking.”

She also suggested a star rating that could be linked to the number of dogs to be walked, that could be increased as experience and qualifications were gained.

Meanwhile, Councillor Carole North said she was “astounded” at what the committee could be agreeing to, claiming there was “no proof” that any of the dogs being walked by Ms Johnston had killed her with no autopsy report in front of the council.

In addition, Councillor David Lee, who originally brought the matter to the community services committee in January, said he wasn’t sure any of the measures proposed “could have averted”  Natasha Johnston’s death but that residents nonetheless had “serious concerns” about dog walking in the district.

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