Dog walkers feeling the heat after Langley deaths

Brian Lumsden, of Bounders K9 Services, gets an affectionate kiss from one of his charges. Lumsden says he transports his dogs in an air-conditioned full-size SUV. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Brian Lumsden, of Bounders K9 Services, gets an affectionate kiss from one of his charges. Lumsden says he transports his dogs in an air-conditioned full-size SUV.

Brian Lumsden is used to saying soothing words to calm a pack of excited dogs. But after the deaths of six dogs in the care of a professional dog walker in Langley, the owner of Bounders K9 Services is also having to reassure their wary owners.

Lumsden, who's been walking dogs for clients in New Westminster and Burnaby for the past year, said he sent an email to his clients as soon as he heard about the incident explaining the type of vehicle he uses to transport their dogs to their walks and the measures he takes to ensure they stay cool and hydrated.

Last week dog walker Emma Paulsen reported six dogs had been stolen from the back of her truck at Brookswood dog park in Langley. But she subsequently confessed to a pet finder website the dogs had perished from heat stroke and she'd disposed of the bodies.

Lumsden, who regularly transports his charges to vigourous hikes on Burnaby Mountain, Eagle Mountain and even Stave Lake, said in addition to open windows and proper ventilation, dogs need to have plenty of space in a vehicle as well as readily-available water.

"If you're picking up dogs, they will be sitting in the car for a stretch of time," said Lumsden, who uses an air-conditioned full-size SUV for his business. He also lets the dogs take a cooling dip in a nearby creek or pond at the end of their walk and he's planning to install a remote starter in his vehicle so it can begin cooling even before they return.

"I can't think of anything worse than dying of heat stroke," said Lumsden.

Brigette Mayer, of Mutt and Moggy in Burnaby, said she'd welcome some sort of regulation of her industry that sets minimum standards for training for professional dog walkers,

"Anyone can call themselves a dog walker," said Mayer, who's been walking dogs for four years. "That's not okay. People are trusting these dog walkers with their animals' lives."

Such training could include learning about dog behaviour, how to put a pack together, as well as first aid, said Mayer, who took a course through a San Francisco based agency prior to starting her business.

Lumsden said he'd welcome regulation.

"It's like daycare," said Lumsden. "You want your dog taken care of like you'd want your kids taken care of."

Mayer, who's already talked with other dog walkers about forming a professional association to set standards, said municipalities could also step into the fray by requiring special licenses for professional dog walkers to use parks and trails.

But no regulation is better than using common sense when it comes to transporting dogs as the weather warms up.

"People don't seem to realize in a confined space, a car turns into an oven," said Mayer. "Within ten minutes, a dog can be suffering."


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