Dog walkers are celebrating after their local council temporarily backed down over rules banning people from walking more than four animals at one time.
West Northamptonshire Council had threatened to issue fines to anyone walking more than four dogs as part of a public space protection order introduced last month.
After a backlash from professional dog walkers, and a petition that attracted over 900 signatures, the council has now said it won't be issuing any fines while it organises talks with representatives from the dog walking community.
In a statement West Northamptonshire Council said it was "listening to the concerns and queries highlighted by professional dog walkers" and would not be issuing fines as long as dog walkers adhered to other parts of the public space protection order.
Professional dog walker Molly Everett, who runs Molly 4 Paws, said she was "on cloud nine" after hearing the news, and had been worried for her livelihood after the four-dog limit was introduced in November.
"When I first heard the news I actually cried," she told Yahoo News UK. "Limiting us to four dogs would significantly affect my income, and in the run-up to Christmas I just didn't know what I was going to do.
"This latest news has made me feel a lot more positive - I can go back to walking my normal numbers and hopefully we can have these talks with the council and find a way forward."
Everett said she walks varying numbers of dogs depending on their breed and temperaments - walking no more than six in public areas and sometimes more on private land.
"I could quite easily walk 12 chihuahuas, but 12 Dobermans definitely not," she said.
"We use our judgement as professionals, we think, 'this dog pulls on a lead so I won't put this dog with other dogs that pull on a lead'.
"I know my dogs so well, I know them inside and out, I know their thinking and I know what they're going to do, so I use that to make sure I'm always walking them safely. A lot of dog walkers are similar to me, we do it based on temperament and our professional judgement. It's common sense a lot of the time."
She said reducing the number of dogs she can take at one time to four would significantly impact her work as she would struggle to get her regular customers' dogs out during daylight - particularly during the winter.
"As a 22-year-old quite petite female I don't feel comfortable walking around in the dark on my own, especially as we walk in some quite secluded areas so we don't annoy other people. As it is I'm up at the crack of dawn doing my first walk as the sun comes up, working all through the day, and if I can't take more than four dogs it's not doable."
She said she had never personally received any complaints, and didn't know whether changes to the council rules were due to specific incidents, but said she hoped they would deal with any issues with the individual rather than "tarring us all with the same brush".
"There are professional dog walkers and there are people who walk dogs - there's a big difference," she added.
In a statement announcing that it planned to meet with professional dog walkers, Cllr David Smith, Cabinet Member for regulatory services at West Northamptonshire Council, said: "In response to queries around the PSPO requirements, we are listening to the concerns and queries highlighted by professional dog walkers.
"In order to understand these queries, Executive Director for Place, Stuart Timmiss and I are in the process of arranging a meeting with representatives for professional dog walkers to discuss the options going forward to support these groups.
"Until these talks have taken place, the council will not be taking enforcement action where more than four dogs are being walked in public open spaces, as long as dog walkers adhere to the other requirements of the PSPOs."