Edinburgh dog walker ordered to pay £3,000 damages by business rival after bitter row ended up in court

Alana Mullen of Pilrig Paws has been told to pay Heather Hiram of Safe as Sound Hound £3,000 in damages.

Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th November 2020, 11:46 am

Two Edinburgh dog walkers were involved in a bitter court battle after claims of mistreatment of the pets were posted on social media.

Alana Mullen, of Pilrig Paws, was ordered to pay Heather Hiram of Safe as Sound Hound dog walking service £3,000 after a sheriff found a post on Facebook from Ms Mullen was defamatory.

Neither of the two dog walkers knew each other, but both walked dogs in Pilrig Park.

Alana Mullen - of dog walking service, Pilrig Paws - has been ordered to pay £3,000 after posting several videos online accusing rival dogwalker Heather Hiram of Safe and Sound Hound of leaving her dogs in an overcrowded van on a hot day.

Ms Hiram had filed a claim for £5,000 of damages with the Sheriff Court in Edinburgh after discovering the post, published by Ms Mullen in 2018, which had claimed Ms Hiram had left several dogs in her van on a hot day for more than 20 minutes with temperatures reaching around 20 degrees.

The post from Ms Mullen also claimed Ms Hiram was unable to control her dogs and failing to pick up after them.

Giving evidence, Ms Hiram insisted her vehicle had air conditioning, ice cold water and cooling mats as well as open windows, and demanded the video be removed.

She added that she had left the dogs in the van for no more than eight minutes, and that the van was fitted with “roomy cages”.

The defamatory posts, captured here, have since been deleted

The professional dog walker added that she had lost around four of her 20 clients, and was worried about losing more due to the reach of the post which had been shared more than 1,500 times.

In his judgement, Sheriff Adrian Cottam ordered Ms Mullen to pay £3,000 in damages.

He wrote: “There is no doubt that if, on the balance of probabilities, there is no truth in the comments then they were defamatory.

“Clearly the reputation of a dog walker would be lowered in the opinion of any right minded person reading it.

Alana Mullen - of dog walking service, Pilrig Paws - has been ordered to pay £3,000 after posting several videos online accusing rival dogwalker Heather Hiram of Safe and Sound Hound of leaving her dogs in an overcrowded van on a hot day

“In fact the comments posted showed the feeling of repulsion and rage against the pursuer and in effect proved even beyond doubt how the comments affected the view taken of the pursuer.

“There was no reason to disbelieve the cost and care that went into the van and this evidence pretty much defeats the main thrust of the post that the dogs could have died. There was no contrary evidence led or suggestion that the van was not so adapted.

“Whilst I found the pursuer had perhaps exaggerated her training and experience to an extent, I had no hesitation in accepting she has a passion for the role.

“The evidence of the clients clearly showed her care and devotion at least to their dogs and some skill in relation to reactive or difficult dogs. Their evidence alone cast significant doubt on the claim in the post that “quite simply she doesn’t care. I fear she won’t care until something happens to one of the dogs”.”

Heather Hiram of Safe and Sound Hound won her case and was awarded £3,000 in damages

Ms Mullen was also ordered to post a public apology on Facebook.

In it, she wrote: “When wrote the post, I was unaware of the extent and level of Heather’s training and experience and I understand now she is as passionate about her own dogs as she is about the dogs in her care. I believe Heather to be a very professional dog walker and I am truly sorry for suggesting otherwise.

“All these comments were unsubstantiated and my hope is that by issuing this apology and clarifying the events of that day, people’s concerns and misunderstandings will be allayed and criticism will be halted.

“My hope is for everyone can leave the incident behind them and look forward to a positive future with, of course, the dogs’ best interests at heart.”

Both Ms Mullen and Ms Hiram were approached for comment.