Animal Licensing

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 provide a single licensing regime for a number of animal licensing activities.

You will need a license if you are:

  • selling animals as pets
  • providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs (including day care)
  • hiring out horses
  • breeding dogs
  • keeping or training animals for exhibition.

The regulations apply conditions that licence holders must comply with. You will be given a rating dependent on specified criteria.

View the current fees.

Animal boarding establishments

A licence is needed to keep a boarding establishment for animals. This includes any business which provides accommodation for cats or dogs owned by other people. Both commercial premises, such as kennels and catteries, and home boarders who look after pets within their own home require licences, as do businesses providing day-time accommodation for pets (for example, dog day care and cat crèches).

Businesses which accommodate animals only as an additional part of the business (for example, a vet's surgery accommodating animals overnight after treatment) do not need to be licensed. There are also no requirements for licences for the boarding of other types of animals apart from dogs and cats.

Dog breeding

A licence is needed to keep a dog breeding establishment. 

This includes any business which breeds dogs for sale (whether directly or to other pet shops), with four or more litters of puppies born in a 12-month period. This may include both commercial properties or private dwellings where bitches are being kept by the breeder, relatives or business partners, in the course of the business.

We will only issue licences for permanent, fixed premises. It is illegal for animals to be kept or sold in streets, public places or from market stalls.

Horse riding establishments

Horse riding establishments, where horses or ponies are hired out for riding or used for riding tuition.

Livery stables, which provide accommodation for other people's horses but do not hire horses for riding, do not require licences.

Pet shops

A licence is needed to keep a pet shop.

This includes any business which sells animals as pets or keeps pets with a view to their sale. Private dwellings must be licensed if animals are being kept or sold there in the course of a business.

Breeding and selling registered pedigree animals, or the occasional sale of the offspring of a family pet, does not require a licence.

We will only issue licences for permanent, fixed premises. It is illegal for pet animals to be sold in streets, public places or from market stalls.

Performing animals

How to apply

All premises will be inspected before a licence is granted. The inspector will be looking to make sure you have the following:

  • a specialist knowledge in the species you are caring for and a clear understanding of its needs and welfare. This would include the animals' mental and physical health, feeding and knowledge of environmental enrichment. You should be able to demonstrate you have researched and followed expert guidance
  • comprehensive records that contain all the information required by the applicable conditions
  • an understanding of risks involved in caring for the animal, including an extensive risk assessment and written policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly. These documents should be available for the Inspector to examine
  • training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them, and clear evidence of good supervision of staff.

The premises itself will also be assessed so we can be sure you meet the new laws relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept.

We will assess the risk rating and award stars. Low-risk premises can attain up to five stars, and premises that have been assessed as higher risk can be awarded up to four stars. If you are not satisfied with the decision, you can make improvements to address highlighted issues, and ask for a re-inspection.

Premises with lower star ratings

A premises with a lower star rating is not necessarily a premises to avoid as there are other factors that have to be considered, such as the length of time you have been operating. New businesses will be assessed as slightly higher risk simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered.

If you need help, contact the Licensing team prior to making a purchase or booking arrangements.

Further updates on the law changes will be published as we receive them.