“The proposed license and permit fee is not considered unreasonable given that commercial dog walkers in the greater Sydney area currently charge dog owners an average of $35 per hour per dog for walks and socialization activities,” business papers containing the draft policy said is described in detail.
If implemented, Inner West would become the second Sydney city council to charge dog walkers to use its parks. Lane Cove Council introduced a permit system in 2013 after a dog attacked a council groundskeeper.
The Lane Cove permit now costs $2200 per year.
As owners of pandemic puppies returned to work, local dog walkers said they were busier than ever providing pet walking and “day care” services during business hours.
Steph Jackson, owner of Shaggy Tails Walking and dog walker in Newtown and Leichhardt, said the increase in dogs being walked during the day and allowed to run in groups off leads was having an impact on safety.
“I used to go to closed parks and stopped going because I noticed there were quite a few dog fights there. If all the handlers are there at the same time, it can get chaotic,” she said.
Jackson said she would be willing to pay for a permit to work in the township, but would like to see the revenue go back into the industry, such as through better parking signage for on-leash and off-leash areas.
Andy Mackereth, a fellow dog handler who runs his Tails in the Park business on O’Dea Reserve in Camperdown, said it was important for dog handlers to be insured and trained, but doubted whether a licensing system could be enforced.
“If you were a cynical person, you might say it’s about increasing revenue,” he said.
“There are a few fights every year, but to be honest I can’t remember the last time one was caused by a dog coming with a handler. It’s our business: We don’t walk dogs that shouldn’t be off-leash in a dog park.”
Mackereth said permit fees would likely be passed on by businesses to their customers and could push smaller dog-walking businesses onto suburban streets.
“Then the dogs that have to run won’t notice. This is not a good solution,” he said.
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