It's not a dog's life anymore with pet talent agency, Urban Paws.

Galway native Layla Flaherty talks about leaving the trappings of reality television behind and rising like a phoenix from the ashes with her successful pet talent agency, Urban Paws.

Layla with her four-legged friends, Buttons a 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier and Biscuit a Dachshund (sausage dog) aged 1.5 years.

Layla with her four-legged friends, Buttons a 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier and Biscuit a Dachshund (sausage dog) aged 1.5 years.

In typical Galwegian fashion, the first thing we spoke about was the weather.

Breaking the ice with war stories of being caught out in one of Mother Nature's temper tantrums and being soaked to the gills, for Layla, a Shantalla girl who has spent nearly 20 years in Liverpool, the weather of home is not something that she misses and something she brings up often during our discussion over Zoom.

"That's what puts me off home. It's so wet and it's always raining."

Having fled the rain of Galway in 2005, you can hear the presence of the two cities in her accent, a testament to how they have influenced and impacted her life. Born in Rahoon and reared in Shantalla, Layla was a familiar face on the Galway modelling scene before a self-described spontaneous move to Liverpool.

"I've always loved exploring new places and things like that and I've been travelling from a young age. Liverpool is very similar to Ireland; it's got the same kind of mentality in that the people are really friendly and it just has a kind of similar vibe. So, it wasn't planned, it was more of a spontaneous idea. I used to come over here at weekends visiting friends and then I thought, you know what, I'm just going to come over.

"It wasn't really planned as such, it was just one of those decisions, a 'let's just do it'."

Layla flourished in Liverpool, getting a degree in mental health nursing in John Moore's University, making friends and just living her life. In 2011 scripted reality television programmes like The Only Way is Essex (otherwise known as TOWIE ) and Made in Chelsea were dominating television channels, pulling in over two million viewers between them, it was therefore not shocking when television bosses turned their attention to the bustling city of Liverpool as the next location for a scripted reality drama.

When I bring it up to Layla, she winces, and I can completely understand why.

Unlike traditional reality TV programmes, where the control of what is portrayed is entirely up to the person being filmed, scripted reality programmes spin narratives and blend fictional scenarios while using the identity of real people. At the time it was considered novel, a way of making real people living fictional lives notorious without giving them any tools or guides to handle notoriety.

In the decade since, the world has somewhat evolved, with many realising that sacrificing people's reputations for entertainment has resulted in real life consequences. For Layla, that programme would set her on a trajectory she now regrets.

"I one million percent hands down regret Desperate Scousewives.

"I think it was the first year after I finished my degree that the Scousewives opportunity came to me. I didn't look for it, I had been recruited because they had been speaking to people around Liverpool who were always out and about and on the scene, and unfortunately, I was one of those people and the people that they had cast, the main characters, I was connected to them in some way shape or form."

Like the programme Desperate Scousewives was modelled after, the script was full of twists, turns, villains, heroes and wild scenarios, unlike Desperate Housewives however, this script was presented as being an accurate portrayal of real people, and this is where the opportunity became an adversity.

"I was friendly with one or two of the girls and had been casually seeing one of the main guys, so there was a connection there in some way. At the time of Scousewives there were only really a couple of reality shows, TOWIE and Geordie Shore and TOWIE was becoming really big, and so that was the decision I had to make."

"I suppose everyone thinks 'Oh my God we could be huge'. Thinking that you could earn so much money off this, the endorsements and everything you're in, so I think that was my mentality at the time. I just went in blind and naive and thought, 'oh my God I'm going to be a superstar', I'm this little girl from Galway and the next minute I'm going to be bloody at the NTAs (National Television Awards ) walking the red carpets and it didn't work out that way."

"I hated it because it was very, very, very scripted. He (the screenwriter ) was a scriptwriter for Coronation Street, you shouldn't need a script for reality TV, it should be loosely scripted but this was heavily scripted. Unfortunately, my character didn't come out in the best light. My mum was devastated, I think she thought it was going to be like Desperate Housewives and I was going to be the next Eva Longoria, she just didn't know it was going to be so detrimental."

Following the release of Desperate Scousewives, the fictional character wearing Layla's face and name was projected across TV screens in the UK, leading to life changing repercussions for her, but ones which have helped to build such a successful businesswoman. 

Now, 12 years on from the whirlwind of Scousewives, Layla's opinion on reality television and the trappings of it have changed, grown from maturity and experience in a way that is impressive.

"I wouldn't recommend going on any type of reality TV show to anyone interested or any kids into it, because it's just a quick fix. It's a quick way of being seen and being known, but what happens after? Your life after the show has ended is clutching at straws to stay relevant. I just think that reality TV should be banned."

Following her couple of years in the public eye, Layla moved away from the limelight, dreaming up a business from her first love, animals.

"People were either abusing me, or I got spat at, I was even glassed. It was just a horrific few years. I think that was the catalyst for me, I thought 'right, I can't get a job. I need to do something for myself.' So put together what I knew and loved and I came up with this idea of a talent agency and I had to make that work."

Layla started pet talent agency Urban Paws in 2015, and it was a match made in heaven. A lifelong animal lover, Layla says she thinks the adoration stems from the loneliness of being an only child.

"I think animals have played such an integral role in my life because I've never had a sibling, so they always used to play the part of siblings for me. I used to dress them up and god knows what else to the poor things. I used to find animals on the way home from school, like birds, stray dogs, hedgehogs, injured crows - anything. I'd bring them home and beg my mum to keep them."

Urban Paws started with just dogs as the talent before expanding into cats and the company can now connect businesses to all kinds of exotic, domestic and 'perfectly imperfect' animals. As well as covering TV and films, Urban Paws also connect pets to companies covering online and print advertising, pet food packaging, theatre productions, meets and greets and pet therapy. Now an award winning company, Urban Paws is just at the beginning of it's growth with Layla and the team looking their own line of pet products, books or even an tv show about the company. 

What began originally as a small operation, with just Layla at the helm has grown, with Urban Paws supplying the integral Welsh corgis in highly regarded Netflix drama The Crown, also providing lovable family dogs for the John Lewis Christmas campaigns as well as numerous Disney productions. Urban Paws welcomes pets from all extents of training and ability, with three catagories for perfomers; model, actor, stuntanimal. 

Thinking of my own occassionally badly behaved Jack Russell Terriers, I ask what is the process is for casting an animal in these roles. 

"It really depends on your pet's ability, that's what determines the types of roles that we can put your pet in. For example, if your pets were really well trained and they have all levels of obedience and tricks and everything, when a script comes in for the bill, I would share that with you, and so long as you're happy with everything and everything gets signed off, you would then begin training. If you weren't able to do the training we could proide a trainer for you to work with the animals so that they know them and when they turn up they're ready and set to do the job, and you know they can have all the comans and skills and everything down to a tee. 

"We have standard dog models, everything from your handbag dogs that just look like props, then ones who have just basic obedience, like sit or stay, then advanced, sit, stay, lie down, roll over, and finally there's trick training animals, who can fake limp, fake wee, they can play dead and it's just a lot more advanced."

All of which sounds like a great deal, especially if you have a high functioning, intellegent work breed, who can essentially be exercised both body and mind while being paid to do it. 

Following the success of Urban Paws in the UK, Layla turned her eye to her home country and launched Urban pets Ireland in 2022 and will be bringing Irish pets and animals to the big screen and has further aspirations for more Urban Paws expansion in the future, potentially somewhere warm Layla says, with a laugh. 

"I'd love to have an Urban Paws somewhere warm, and have an excuse to fly over the Spain." 

Urban Paws Ireland is currently recruiting for a wide variety of animals, and welcome interested applications from pet and animal owners and pet influencers who might be interested in seeing their beloved four-legged friend on the big screen. For those interested in applying, contact details are available on


Page generated in 0.2920 seconds.