THE COUNCIL could be set to charge dog-walking businesses to walk their client’s dogs on council-owned land.

The proposal comes after a council report suggested “businesses would pay a fee to have a licence so that the council could ensure that public spaces are not misused.”

Stephen Chown, Head of Parks and Countryside at Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) said: “We are currently exploring options around issuing licences to individuals operating dog walking businesses within the boroughs public parks.

“This would help establish good practices in the commercial dog-walking sector as well as ensuring a shared desire to take care of our public parks.

“Officers have been surveying existing dog walking companies for feedback, and looking at how a potential scheme could operate, including drafting a code of practice and any potential costs.”

The proposal has split opinions in Bracknell’s dog-walking community, with some who provide the service also having to pay up to £142 for a licence if they offer doggy daycare at home as well.

Heidi Skipper, from Bracknell dog-walking service Kozy K9z, told the News: “With all the current legislation in place it will make it more and more difficult for us.

“We already pay for a licence to board dogs and now they want to charge us for walking our dogs as well.

“It is going to put a lot of people out of business and that is not great for the dogs, let alone the people.”

Heidi and her colleagues take out up to six dogs per walk and the Kozy K9z group are a well-equipped team.

She continued: “The council wants to make money and they are turning this into something serious.

“We have all got the right medical exams and it costs us more than £2,000 to kit out our vans.

“We are sensible people and this has gone too far now.”

However, Kevin Buckland, owner of Pack Pals Dog Walking, said: “I am all for the business being properly licensed for public walking.

“A licence done correctly holds a company accountable, to the number of dogs walked and the care of the animals being to a high standard.

“I believe the licence should come with perks such as parking permits and the council should do more to actively promote the businesses with correct licences.”

Kevin has four employees working at Pack Pals and despite his support for the licence, he told the News about his worries about enforcing the policy.

He continued: “My fear is that there is no way to monitor and enforce said licence – there are few, if any, national standards let alone council ones in place.

“Once a licence is issued who would monitor the restrictions are being adhered to?

“Would there be spot fines or a slap on the wrist? What is the difference between a 15-year-old helping out his neighbour and earning some pocket money and a company with employees making a living?

“Whilst this does need regulating, I don’t believe this is why it is being done. We cost the council nothing for us to run our business. So it feels like another easy way to make money.

“A professional licence to be done properly would either be unaffordable or unenforceable.”

In the last five years, more than 250 licence applications to look after, breed or sell animals were approved by the council.