Dog-walkers face being limited to four pooches at a time in Hackney – as one warns that ‘prices will increase’

A dog’s personal space is just six feet, according to local canine expert Anna Webb

The number of dogs any one person can walk at the same time could be cut to four in a bid to control their behaviour in Hackney’s parks.

The proposals could also see dogs barred from sports pitches, including the iconic football area at Hackney Marshes, which has seen an increase in paid dog-walkers recently.

One resident reported seeing 13 dogs being exercised by two people there.

The move follows limits brought in by other councils.

Lots of people have complained to Town Hall bosses about dog behaviour over the last 18 months.

Some residents say they are “nervous about the large numbers of dogs in Hackney’s parks and green spaces”.

Others have asked the council for more dog-free zones and stricter rules on using leads, while dog owners have asked for fenced-off areas for their pooches to stretch their legs.

A council report said: “It is very difficult for professional dog walkers to be in control of high numbers of dogs at any one time.”

Hackney-based dog behaviour expert Anna Webb said: “Four dogs is still too much if there is an incident.”

She said the death of a woman in Surrey in January as a “wake-up call”. The woman was killed by dogs as she was walking several of them.

“It could happen again,” Webb warned.

She said it takes time and consistency to train dogs and she has also noticed an increase in dog mess left around, as well as “intimidation”.

She added that the success of a fenced-off dog exercise area depends on its size.

“Not all dogs like each other and dogs’ personal space is six feet.”

She said “living in London with a dog takes a huge amount of work”, but pointed out that “dogs enrich our lives so much”.

One local professional dog-walker who teamed up with others to create a code of conduct fears the proposed limits would be “detrimental to the client, as prices would have to be increased”.

Hackney brought in a public spaces protection order in 2017 to control the behaviour of dogs and their owners. It was put on hold between October 2020 and March 2021 during the first winter of the pandemic.

That order runs out next year, so the council is consulting over extending its powers.

Measures could include fines for people who fail to clear up dog faeces, exercise dogs in banned areas, do not keep them on a lead in lead-only areas, or do not keep them under control.

People walking more than four dogs could also face fixed penalty fines of £100 or a punishment of up to £1,000 in the courts.

The City of London decided to issue a limited number of £300 a year licences to professional dog walkers in 2021 and restricts them to walking a maximum of four dogs at a time.

A decision to run a consultation is likely to be approved by cabinet today.