Professional dog walkers are to be the subject of greater scrutiny across the Ile-de-France region after reports that they are damaging the area’s forests and natural spaces.
The profession is becoming more popular in the region, meaning that larger groups of dogs are being taken into natural spaces more frequently.
Professional dog walkers can get a state diploma (diplôme d’état) and register their vehicles, so they can operate as above-board businesses. On average, they take out 8 to 12 dogs per dog walker and charge around €30 per dog per walk.
Yet, they are now set to undergo more intense scrutiny after a rise in reports of unregistered walkers, and claims that the “packs” of dogs are damaging the environment.
Michel Beal, director of the Ile-de-France regional agency at l’Office national des forêts (ONF), told BFMTV: “This type of phenomenon, with sometimes three, four, or even five vehicles from the same company which arrive at a car park in a forest, and can sometimes bring dozens, if not 50 to 60 dogs, it disturbs the public.
“Secondly, spring can be a vulnerable time for nature, with birds and mammals reproducing; these animals in nature become even more vulnerable.”
The rising popularity of the profession has led some communes in the region to take out decrees that effectively supervise these walks more closely.
For example, in the Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes, and Foret de Meudon near Paris, dog walkers must pay fees and get prior authorisation from the mairie to use the areas for their business activities. The number of dogs per person is limited to four, and they must be kept on a lead.
The ONF is now putting together a new management plan for these walkers, which is likely to include limitations on which areas they can use, and new fees payable for a licence.
Pushback from professionals
However, some dog walkers have hit back at the plans, and say that they already use natural areas responsibly.
Eric Chaussade, founder of doggy daycare and dog walker company Doggies et compagnie, which is based in Bois-Colombes, said: “Today, if all the forests limit walkers to just four dogs per person, then that will encourage an economic model of people who are not registered, who do not have insurance and are not responsible.
“And people will favour these walkers, to the detriment of businesses who have salaried workers. All you need to do is stick to the rules [that already exist]. We work according to strict vet recommendations, our workers are competent and can apply them, and I think the ONF does not seem to realise.”
Others say they fear that more rules around the profession will cause it to decline.