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Animal welfare licensing


Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 came into force on 1 October 2018. Under the requirements of these regulations, animal boarding businesses (including home boarding and dog day care), dog breeders, pet shops, riding establishments and persons keeping or training animals for exhibition, are covered under a single type of licence. This is known as an 'animal activity licence', with nationally-set licence conditions for businesses providing animal-related services. Businesses operating with these activities need to comply with the conditions and will be assessed before the licence is granted to make sure they can meet them.

As of 6 April 2020, an amendment to the Animal Welfare (Licensing Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 means that puppies and kittens under the age of six months can no longer be sold by a pet shop, commercial dealer or anyone other than a licensed breeder. This includes puppies which are imported.

Anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten under six months must either deal directly with the breeder or an animal re-homing centre.

DEFRA's procedural guidance notes for local authorities plus animal activity licence conditions cover the following activities:

  • dog breeding
  • pet selling
  • hiring out horses
  • boarding for dogs and cats
  • home boarding for dogs
  • dog day care
  • keeping or training animals for exhibition

A risk-rating star system is in place for all businesses and local authorities will determine the star rating of a business based on welfare standards found during an inspection and on whether that business is deemed low or high risk. Businesses deemed low risk and meeting higher welfare standards will access the highest star ratings, which in turn is likely to lead to longer intervals between inspections and potentially lower fees.

Should you require further information regarding these new regulations, please contact Environmental Health.

Last modified on 28 July 2023

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