Dog walkers in leafy Richmond are up in arms over plans to ban them roaming the area’s parks with six animals at once.
Professional dog walkers are concerned they could be put out of business if Richmond council’s proposal for a four-dog limit goes ahead.
And they say pet-owners may even be forced to give up their animals if the controversial plan is enforced because they will not be able to give their pets enough exercise.
Richmond council is consulting on Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) for its open spaces, with the limit on dogs per walker potentially being lowered from six to four.
The council says it has seen a rise in complaints of animals causing a nuisance and professional dog walkers flooding popular parks like Sheen Common and Ham Lands.
But a petition by Lucy Bonnett against the proposal has been signed by more than 700 people in under a week.
Ms Bonnett, who runs Riverside Dogs and chairs the Association of Professional Dog Walkers, said the plans followed a previous attempt in 2012 by the council to cut the number of dogs walked by one person.
She said: “We love our jobs. We provide a valuable and necessary service to many, many families within Richmond, many of who would struggle to keep their dogs without us, their dog walkers.
“This PSPO will potentially cut our incomes by 40 per cent - this is unsustainable for us.
“Someone said to me today 'Lucy if they implement this I will stop dog walking, I won't be able to make a living unless I increase my prices to a level that I am uncomfortable with'.
“This is not some money -grabbing individual, this is someone who makes a modest income doing a job she loves, and refuses to charge an astronomical price for her services.
“Surely this is someone we should be applauding not pushing out of business?”
Ms Bonnett said professionals were being penalised for the bad behaviour of the minority, who failed to pick up their animals' mess and allowed them to run riot.
She said: “We’re here in Richmond borough which everyone thinks is rich but people aren’t. These are normal people with normal jobs and they have the same worries as the rest of us.”
A spokesman for Richmond council said the dog limit was a small part of the PSPO which would also curb the flying of drones, starting fires and letting off fireworks.
Cllr Pamela Fleming, Richmond Council Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “We have seen a rise in the number of complaints we are receiving about dogs not being under control and professional dog walkers from other boroughs bringing dogs to our parks. This protection order will review these issues.
“Richmond upon Thames is a pleasant, vibrant and enjoyable place to live, work and visit and we very much intend for these orders to help us keep it that way.”
The new policy does not apply to Richmond Park, which already has a four-dog limit and is run by the Royal Parks not the council.