A scheme to legislate professional dog walkers is being launched by Brighton and Hove City Council.

It is believed to be the first local authority in the country to invite dog walking businesses to undergo an inspection and sign up to a code of conduct.

The idea for the scheme came about after the council's animal welfare officers heard concerns from both dog owners and people offering dog walking services as dozens of new ventures have sprung up in recent months.

Animal welfare officer Amanda Teale said: "Members of the public were worried about the growing number of people walking several dogs at once, and there were reports of some behaving irresponsibly.

"In addition, people offering dog walking services approached us about the increasing numbers of what they described as 'cowboy' dog walkers."

Under the scheme, dog walkers will volunteer to undergo an inspection of any vehicles used for transporting animals, provide insurance information and sign up to the code.

Companies that have signed up and passed the inspection will then be listed on the council's website.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, cabinet member for environment, said: "Dog walking businesses have grown rapidly over the past few years as owners return to work, or work longer hours. But until now, the only way to get a recommendation was through word of mouth.

"We've had a great response from dog walkers keen to get the council's seal of approval for their businesses."