Select Committee on Committee on the London Local Authorities Bill Minutes of Evidence

Evidence before the Committee (Questions 480-499)


480.  How long have you been in the process of promoting this Bill?

(Mr Stratton) This has been going for probably two and a half years.

481.  You mentioned that it takes about two years to promote a by-law.

(Mr Stratton) Correct.

482.  Is there any reason why those by-laws have not been promoted in the meantime in relation to this particular issue?

(Mr Stratton) Absolutely. As I said, we were affected by the by-law and we felt that it would be far more responsible to go pan-London rather than just be selfish and do it for Wandsworth. We knew where the dogs would go, they would pop over the border, some to Lambeth and some going north and certainly to the neighbouring boroughs and they would be suffering exactly the same problem we are suffering.

483.  It is the case, is it not, that those boroughs themselves can avail themselves of the by-law making power if they have a problem?

(Mr Stratton) You are absolutely right, but the boroughs that are slow in doing it might do this twelve years downstream.

484.  Can I make the suggestion that in fact there is already quite adequate provision in terms of the by-law making abilities of the boroughs to protect themselves against the sort of concerns that your borough clearly faces and therefore there is no immediate requirement for any additional powers contained in clause 14?

(Mr Stratton) You talk about immediacy. If I could have introduced this within Wandsworth two years ago I would have done so. It has taken two and a half years to get this far. If we do introduce this as a by-law all that is going to happen is our next door neighbours will then have to go through the process of trying to create their own by-laws and spend perhaps two years in doing it and when they have achieved it the next door boroughs will do the same. What I am trying to say is that by having this in this particular Act those boroughs that are affected can implement this almost instantly. By going down the other route it might be twelve years before some boroughs get round to doing it because they have not experienced the problem that we have to date.

485.  Can I take you to clause 14 itself, please. Do you have it there?

(Mr Stratton) Yes.

486.  We mentioned subsection (1) earlier and I wanted to have your confirmation, please, that these provisions will not simply apply to professional dog-walkers, will they?

(Mr Stratton) No.

487.  They are intended to apply to anybody, a private owner of animals who wishes to walk his dogs in the case where there are more than four at any one time.

(Mr Stratton) Correct.

488.  Could you please explain to me the intention of sub-paragraph (b) because I fail to understand what or who it is aimed at? 14(1) says that any person who carries out multiple dog-walking without a written consent or in breach of a condition shall be guilty of an offence. (b) says that any person who causes or permits any person to do so shall be guilty of an offence too.

(Mr Stratton) We now have certainly two dog- walkers who subcontract their dogs. So they collect the dogs, they give them to somebody else and that somebody else goes off and walks them. They then carry on doing another activity which might be dog training or even walking dogs themselves.

489.  Do you think there is any concern that that provision might be applied to a private individual who gives his dog to a professional dog-walker, as many people do these days, to walk?

(Mr Stratton) No.

490.  I suggest that that provision is capable of that interpretation, but I will give that submission in due course. Can we also make it clear of course that this provision imposes a criminal penalty in relation to somebody in breach of a condition on the licence or failure to have a licence. That is right, is it not?

(Mr Stratton) Well, they would certainly be prosecuted and appear in a Magistrates' Court.

491.  Could I take you to those conditions then and the framework, if that is the right way of putting it, for the conditioning process and the imposition of conditions as set out in subsection (2) and includes conditions as to the times or period in which the consent is valid. Do you know whether that is intended to impose some sort of time restriction or might it impose some sort of time restriction as to when people might actually walk their dogs?

(Mr Stratton) It certainly could if there are too many people who are walking dogs at the same time or large groups of dogs at the same time in a park or an open space. It may be necessary to get them together and either individually let them agree when they will walk their dogs, am or pm, or even more than merely before noon, let's say between eight and ten.

492.  Eight and ten in the?

(Mr Stratton) In the morning, or giving them time slots or them arranging time slots when they can walk their dogs.

493.  Would it be possible, do you think, under those provisions there to require someone to walk their dog after dark?

(Mr Stratton) They would not have to. Most people who own their own dogs walk their own dogs after dark even though officially perhaps some of the parks and open spaces are closed, but private owners will walk their own dogs after dark normally in any event and early in the morning.

494.  Can I take you to sub-paragraphs (d), (e), (f) and (g) of subsection (2) which mentions that the conditions may be imposed as the part of the place designated under the subsection below where the consent is to apply conditions as to the number of dogs which may be walked, conditions relating to the training of the person carrying out the multiple dog-walking and conditions relating to his conduct when carrying it out. Could you tell me, please, who is the person to take the view as to what conditions should be imposed and the nature of those conditions in relation not just to your borough where you are well served in terms of expert dog wardens, controllers, but in other boroughs?

(Mr Stratton) Conditions as regarding the place will depend really on how many people have already asked to go, for example, to Battersea Park. If there are already too many people walking in Battersea Park and a dog-walker comes along and asks for a licence, they will be told, "Well, Battersea Park is now pretty well swamped out, so you will have to go and walk your dog in another place", so that condition will be imposed by or through the dog control unit and the park police.

495.  And that would apply to a private individual, would it not? They would be required to go to another park to walk their animals if there was a condition to that effect?

(Mr Stratton) You refer to our borough, but in our borough that would not happen. The residents would come first. The professional dog-walkers would always come second and if a person had been given a licence and then a resident appeared and wanted to walk a large number of dogs, and we do not, I can assure you, have very many people who have over four dogs in Wandsworth, but if somebody did come along, we would make arrangements for that person almost to get the pick because that is what the parks are for, the residents.

496.  Do you think that professional dog-walkers might be aggrieved if that were your policy?  (Mr Stratton) They may be aggrieved, but as a local authority our function is to look after, first and foremost, our residents.

497.  We traversed earlier over sub-paragraph (f), the conditions relating to the training of the person carrying out the dog-walking. Again, we were a little uncertain and I wonder if you can clarify exactly what you meant by training in these circumstances. Are there people certainly in your borough who would fulfil that function? Are they themselves capable of training people how to walk dogs responsibly?

(Mr Stratton) That certainly is my view and our dog control unit is very experienced. Some of them have been there for 15 years in the same job and they know, they have been on various courses, dog psychology courses and the like, and they are, in my view, more than adequately capable of deciding what level of training and what standards an individual needs to achieve and I believe that they could take somebody out and walk with somebody for ten or 15 minutes and probably ascertain whether that person is capable of taking more than four dogs or five dogs.

498.  It just seemed to me that when you answered the question in your evidence you were suggesting, I think, that rather than the actual training of people to walk dogs, you were simply informing people of what the process was, what the condition procedure was, that in fact those people are not trained to train walkers.

(Mr Stratton) I would wish to see that the dog-walkers are competent to walk their dogs or a large group of dogs.

499.  You, of course, are referring mainly to the position in Wandsworth?

(Mr Stratton) Yes.

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