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

Evidence before the Committee (Questions 520-539)


520.  Yes.

(Mr Stratton) They would just apply for the licence.

521.  If they were unable to get a licence because the quota was complete, what position would they be in then? What would they do if they wanted to carry on their professional dog-walking activities?

(Mr Stratton) Sorry, you are talking about a professional dog-walker now.

522.  You are not suggesting they are unlikely to be within the quota.

(Mr Stratton) A professional dog-walker will have to find another park or open space where he can walk his dogs, or her dogs. They bring their dogs in cars. That is their affair.

523.  Assuming there is enough quota for them in an adjacent borough.

(Mr Stratton) I am sure there would be. We would find anybody a time slot within Wandsworth at the moment. We are not that ----

524.  Can I take you to the designation procedure that is contained in Schedule 2. It is a standard procedure which embraces advertisement in public local newspapers and invites objections within a 28-day period. Is that right?

(Mr Stratton) Yes.

525.  What happens if you get a lot of objections to the particular designated area that you have chosen?

(Mr Stratton) In Wandsworth's case we would designate all parks and open spaces within the borough. I do not believe that we will have, in fact I am absolutely certain, any objectors. We will actually have an enormous amount of support.

526.  Again, that is not necessarily true of the other boroughs, is it? That is your position because you, as Wandsworth, have really been driving this provision.

(Mr Stratton) Yes, but as people in other boroughs suddenly find more and more professional dog-walkers are coming into their area and there are larger numbers of groups of dogs taking over their parks and open spaces I think that the residents there, too, would be supportive of the imposition of this.

527.  You have to take into consideration those objections. Is there any provision for that? Say it was contentious, as it might be, is there any provision for the public to be involved in the analysis of the objection? Is there an inquiry procedure?

(Mr Stratton) The decision would be made in the council at the relevant committee, and that is where individuals could petition or they could petition their local councillor outside the council chamber.

528.  Is there any specific ground in the Bill that would enable a body or an individual to challenge the designation?

(Mr Stratton) No. Once the decision is made, the decision is made.

529.  MR MUNDY: Thank you very much.


530.  CHAIRMAN: I would like to ask a couple of questions before my colleagues leap in. If we go back to the photographs, on the one hand you are telling us that this is a serious problem but, on the other hand, you produced a set of photographs where, if you look through them, the ratio of dog-walkers to dogs is under four, with one exception - the person you said was a responsible dog owner with four dogs himself who has another group on a lead. If it is such a serious problem, why has there not been serious evidence of bunching, as I put it, and why have you not been able to obtain more powerful photographs?

(Mr Stratton) The photographs were taken by our dog control unit.

531.  You have six dog control officers?

(Mr Stratton) We have six dog control officers. They are not gifted in photography. The first time round they took a cine film which I thought was quite reasonable, but there were others who did not. It was quite long, it was about half-an-hour but there were only about two minutes that were any good. They are not gifted photographers - amateur or professional. I suppose if one really wants to do it properly you do it yourself, but there are other pressing things.

532.  The letters are, I think, very powerful and I think make a very powerful case for areas of concern, but it does cross my mind that you would be creating quite an empire, quite a layer of bureaucracy with all of this. Would it not have been possible to reach agreement on how this should go forward with all those people, professional dog-walkers?

(Mr Stratton) We tried initially. When it fell down I wrote to all of them, they really took little or no notice. There are one or two who are good but there are some who are not.

533.  My last question is a practical one because I am a dog owner myself - hugely irresponsible dog owner myself, I say straight away, but I am not in the London borough so I escape all of this. It seems to me that there is a huge problem. If somebody said "I want you to dog-walk eight Chihuahuas" and so on, but if somebody said "I want to dog-walk five Rottweilers" then it is a completely different kettle of fish. I am interested in how this figure of five becomes the magic figure. Should there not be some sort of weight ratio - the weight of the dog-walker and the weight of the dog? There is a control element there. Five Rottweilers and you would be into the sunset on the end of a lead.

(Mr Stratton) It was a taxing issue, I confess. The more so because until she died earlier this year there was a lady who had ten very small dogs which she walked in Battersea Park, and did so very responsibly. It was with the guidance of our dog control officers and our parks police dog handlers that we came up with a figure. Once you get to four dogs you are then starting to, probably, lose or you may well start losing control. Five dogs on a lead, if they are fairly big or medium-sized dogs, can pull an individual around. One Rottweiler can pull an individual around. We have not come across people who have got large numbers of Rottweilers but we have come across people, particularly as you saw in the photograph, with medium and large dogs, and that tends to be the norm. It was through their advice that they thought up to four we can handle, and I think most people should be able to handle up to four, particularly if they are their own dogs and if they are professional dog-walkers, if they are good walkers. Once it gets over four, that is when it starts getting difficult. It was on their advice that we settled for over four dogs.

534.  My last question is that on the photographs - I am getting old and I cannot see like I used to, and I accept that the photographs are not of crystal clear clarity - do the bigger dogs have muzzles?

(Mr Stratton) One or two only will muzzle their dogs. The person who I mentioned was a responsible dog owner, when he starts taking his dog out he will always muzzle it and he will always have it on a lead. That is his style.

535.  JIM SHERIDAN: Mr Stratton, dog fouling is a very serious hazard amongst young children. Can I take you to the photographs? In your professional capacity, could you identify anywhere in the photographs where you see any evidence that these dog-walkers, professional or otherwise, have dog-fouling equipment to clean up after them with them?

(Mr Stratton) There probably is one. The chap who has got the cowboy hat on. He will have a satchel over his shoulder and he collects it in bags and he keeps it in the satchel, and then he dumps it all. I suspect that most of these will have bags and carry bags in their pockets. I think all the professional dog-walkers will have that because they are watched occasionally. If they foul, particularly when they get out of the car - which is when most dogs will foul ----

536.  Just on the second page of the photographs, the top left-hand photograph, Mr Mundy seems to draw the conclusion that this chap, by walking by a dog bin with, what looks to me, both hands full holding on to the dogs, indicates that he is a responsible dog-walker. Assuming, of course, that the dogs in London are not toilet trained, will there be any significance in walking by a dog bin and how many dog bins are in the park?

(Mr Stratton) All litter bins are places where you can put dog-fouling. There is no differentiation between dog-fouling and litter. So any litter bin can be used. We actually - and I think Battersea Park is probably the only one, there are a couple elsewhere - in Battersea have put up red bins because it is a place where we have dog shows, even in conjunction with the Kennel Club we have dog shows; our parks police have dog shows; our dog control unit have dog shows and the red bin just stands out better. I do not think that there is anything interesting about the chap actually passing a red bin. You cannot go very far in Battersea Park without passing one, in honesty. Certainly not a litter bin.

537.  MR BLUNT: With this clause there is actually no way to differentiate between applying it to private or professional dog-walkers.

(Mr Stratton) No, and I can explain the reason for that. You cannot go up to somebody and ask if they are a professional dog-walker. It is very hard to prove that somebody is a professional dog-walker even though we know who they are .

538.  Would these requirements apply to the Queen? Would Her Majesty require a licence?

(Mr Stratton) I am sure Her Majesty would have to uphold the law of the land. I do not know if that is answering the question.

539.  I presume from the photographs that she owns four dogs. If she wishes to walk her dogs in London she will have to apply for a licence, is that right?

(Mr Stratton) Yes.

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