TORONTO -- Dog walking services are allowed to operate across the province right now despite confusion among pet owners.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health confirmed to CP24 that dog walkers are indeed permitted to work while a provincewide stay-at-home order is in effect and southern Ontario remains under lockdown.

“Pet walkers are permitted to operate under O. Reg. 82/20 - for services that are necessary for the immediate health and welfare of the animal only, or provided through curb side pick-up and drop-off of the animal,” states the Reopening Ontario Act.

The clarification comes after a growing petition surfaced online calling on the Ford government to make dog walking services essential.

Nicola Smith started the petition a week ago and said it would be cruel not to let high-energy dogs and puppies outside for walking breaks if their owners are unable to.

“If you have one dog walker that has four dogs or five dogs, whatever the company restrictions are, that’s four less people on the streets so we’re helping,” Nicola Smith told CP24.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had more than 5,000 signatures.

Ontario entered a provincewide lockdown on Dec. 26, 2020 in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The lockdown ended for northern Ontario on Jan. 9 but continues for Southern Ontario until at least Jan. 23. While in lockdown, non-essential services are forced to closed including gyms, movie theatres and indoor dining at resaturants.

Under the Reopening Ontario Act, it states that veterinary services are permited along with "other businesses that provide services to animals that are necessary for their health and welfare, including farms, boarding kennels, stables, animal shelters and research facilities." The act did not specfically say if dog walkers were allowed.

With cases, hospitalizations and deaths still on the rise, the government also implemented a provincewide stay-at-home order The order came into effect on Jan.14 for at least 28 days.

Under the order, Ontarians are encouraged to stay home unless they need to go out for essential reasons, including getting groceries, medical appointments and exercising.

On Tuesday, the province logged 1,913 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest number of infections reported in a single day in Ontario in over a month. However, only 34,000 tests were processed in the past 24 hours and the province said the numbers from Toronto Public Health are likely low due to a technical issue.