We’re sorry, this feature is currently unavailable. We’re working to restore it. Please try again later.
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
A Sydney council will scrap a controversial plan to charge dog walkers for using its parks after an angry reaction from residents.
The Inner West Council revealed a draft “commercial dog-walking policy” in September, which would have required walking services to pay a $552 annual fee to use council-owned parks or off-leash areas, including sports fields.
Shaggy Tails Walking’s Steph Jackson was one of dozens of small business owners who would have been impacted. Credit: Flavio Brancaleone
Other proposals in the draft policy included rules that only one commercial dog walker would be permitted to access a dedicated off-leash park at any one time, with a maximum of two commercial dog walkers per park per day, and insurance and first aid training requirements.
Inner West Council estimates there are 42,000 pet dogs in its local government area, belonging to about two in five households. Local dog walkers say they are busier than ever providing walking and “daycare” services to pets during business hours, as the owners of pandemic puppies not used to an empty house return to work.
Mayor Darcy Byrne said the need for permits had never been raised with him by residents, so his Labor majority council would not support the policy.
“There’s no apparent safety problem,” he said, confirming the policy, originally slated to be reconsidered at this week’s council meeting, would be voted down.
“If a busy dog owner wants to pay a neighbour to walk their dog because they won’t have time to do it themselves, the council has no business getting in the way of that arrangement.”
Balmain’s Justine Lloyd, one of more than 40 local dog walkers who joined a Facebook group to campaign against the policy, said it was “amazing news”.
“Personally, the way it was, it would have ruined my business,” she said, describing the proposal as a “solution looking for a problem”.
Walkers had expressed their concern about the viability of the policy to councillors and to Byrne directly, particularly the rules limiting how many walkers could use a park at once.
“[The policy] was just completely unworkable … it wasn’t really reflective of how a dog walking business works: You have clients all over the place and depending on the weather conditions and whatever else you go and find a park to walk those dogs. You couldn’t be applying for permits in advance,” Lloyd said.
“No dog walkers had been consulted, and so we were really blindsided by the whole thing,”
Inner West was not the first Sydney council to consider charging dog walkers to use its parks.
Lane Cove Council introduced a permit system in 2013 following a dog attack on a council groundskeeper.
At the time, council also held concerns local dog walkers were not stopping dogs from digging holes on council land, or picking up after dogs, due to the large number of dogs in their care while on a walk, likening it to fees for using businesses using other council property, such as hiring halls.
The Lane Cove permit now costs $2200 a year.
In the City of Ryde, professional dog minders must pay annual license fees of between $315 and $1260, as well as undertake to minimise wear and tear on council grass and other property, and only conduct their business within set hours.
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Copyright © 2023