So you’re thinking of becoming a professional dog walker? Welcome to a hectic, tumultuous, but rewarding new industry.
You’ll be embarking on a career with a difference, having your heartstrings tugged every day spending time with your canine clients. The role will make your days feel like a far cry from the generic office-based 9 to 5. That said, there are some legalities about dog walking you need to be aware of before getting started.
Firstly, The Telegraph noted that professional dog walkers typically earn 20% more than the average UK wage. Certainly a very profitable venture from a business point of view. However, it also means that customers will expect a level of expertise; they won’t be expecting to pay money for a dog walker that doesn’t understand their legal obligations when taking their four-legged family member out for a stroll.
The legal stuff
It’s vital you’re aware of your legal obligations before expanding on the nitty-gritty of understanding dog walking laws. You will need to register with HM Revenue and Customs to set up your own business. If you’re alone, you’ll need to make yourself the ‘sole trader’ of your company, responsible for things like tax and National Insurance.
As for the dogs you’re looking after, there are some laws and acts that are vital to your success. Some are more common-sense based and easy to follow, while others are trickier to keep in check, so it’s still worth reading and remembering.
Under The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act of 2005, councils have the power to create their own Dog Control Orders for public land, and as a dog walker, you’re expected to keep abreast of the guidelines that are check for any changes in specific public spaces.
What’s a Dog Control Order?
Dog Control Orders can cover a variety of topics, pertaining to the fouling of land, keeping your canines on leads, dog-free zones, and limits on the number of dogs you can take into an area at a given time.
It’s a criminal offence if you fail to comply with a Dog Control Order. With a fine of up to £1,000 – this would not be a lucrative move for a dog walking startup.
There’s also the matter of the Road Traffic Act of 1988, which makes it an offence for a dog to be on a public road without a lead. It’s also important to make sure that your customers are compliant with the Control of Dogs Order 1992. This states that all dogs while out in public must wear a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed on it. Having the appropriate information on your dogs’ collars will also pay dividends should one go missing momentarily on a walk.
Another key law to consider is the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Under this act, any dog designated by the Secretary of State as ‘bred for fighting’ (e.g the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa) in a public place must wear a muzzle or be kept on a lead by an individual below 16 years of age. The perpetrator could face a prison sentence or fine depending on the severity of the crime. The court may even order the destruction of the dog, or disqualify the owner’s custody of their pet.
If your business is going to be based rurally, it’s worth paying extra attention to the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act of 1953. This gives some farmers and landowners the power to shoot trespassing dogs that come onto their land and are perceived to pose a threat to their livestock. Definitely something to be aware of!
Preparing for anything
All of this legislation may seem daunting as you prepare your new business venture, but don’t worry, as a dog walker you get plenty of legal protection too.
When working with animals, sometimes accidents can be inevitable through no fault of your own. Public Liability Insurance helps to keep your business, and those around you, protected if a mishap occurs.
Public Liability Insurance covers any damage that a dog may incur to a property or any injuries that might happen if the dogs you’re looking after get spooked for whatever reason.
If you intend your business to take on employees, then it’s vital to take out Employers’ Liability Insurance also, which will protect your company should an employee sustain an injury out on the job.
As you’re involved in an outgoing job role that requires constant contact with animals, it could also be wise to protect yourself from receiving a long-term injury. With Personal Accident Insurance you’ll be able to secure a payout if your line-of-work leads to incapacitation for a period of time, or if you sustain permanent injuries.
Where can I get help and advice?
Despite the considerations that need to be taken should the worst arise, it’s worth remembering that dog walking is a job like no other. It’s also a healthy, confidence boosting way of making money. Plus, you’re not alone, thanks to dedicated unions like the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers, who would always be on-hand for great advice and support. Not only will NARPS help you throughout your business, but being a member of their union would also hold extra appeal for potential customers.
To further boost your business profile, you may also want to attain a dog walking licence. While it’s not a necessity to hold a dog walking licence, you’ll encounter customers that will see it as a desirable skill, and one of the UK’s most popular licences is the Think Dog! Certificate; something which helps you to achieve an understanding of canine behaviour. Compass is another credible licence to pursue to make sure your business is in the best shape possible to get started.
With Companies Made Simple, you’ll have access to a range of formation packages catering to your needs as a business owner and arranging any insurance that you’ll need before getting started on your venture.
Dogs deserve our undivided attention, so why not make things easier, shift your business and insurance burdens to Companies Made Simple, and let us pick up the slack for you? Alternatively, if you’d like a little more information surrounding company formation and how it affects your business, feel free to check out our help centre. For more information on our company formation packages to help get you started, you can view them here.