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Animal welfare legislation

Date updated: 1/12/2022

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

The Animal Welfare came into force in October 2018 and are made under section 13(7) and 13(8) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. They update and replace legislation for selling animals as pets, dog and cat boarding, dog breeding and riding establishments. In addition to this it introduces, for the first time, a licence regime for keeping and training animals for exhibition.

Under Schedule 1 of the regulation, a licensable activity means one of five activities involving animals:

  • Selling animals as pets
  • Providing for or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs
  • Hiring out horses
  • Dog breeding
  • Keeping or training animals for exhibition

In order to be granted a licence, both the general conditions in Schedule 2 and the specific conditions relating to that activity must be met. Schedules 3 to 7 cover the specific conditions for each licensable activity and these must be read in conjunction with the guidance document for each activity.

Licensable activities
Schedule Conditions
3 Selling animals as pets
4 Part 1: Providing boarding for cats
4 Part 2: Providing boarding in kennels for dogs
4 Part 3: Providing home boarding for dogs
4 Part 4: Providing day care for dogs
5 Hiring out horses
6 Breeding dogs
7 Keeping or training animals for exhibitions

A licence is required by anyone selling animals as pets, either directly or with a view to them later being sold as pets, in the course of a business. The scope of this includes the business of wholesale/pet shop supplier as a licensable activity, as well as anyone keeping animals in the course of a business with a view to them being sold or resold.

The exceptions to this are:

  • The selling of animals in the course of an aqua cultural business inspected (by CEFAS) and authorised under The Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009
  • The breeding of dogs to the extent that you require a licence relevant to this activity, rather than a pet sales licence.

A licence is required for providing or arranging boarding for other people’s dogs or cats in the course of a business, on any premises where the provision of that accommodation is the purpose of a business. The following activities are included:

  • Boarding for cats
  • Boarding kennels for dogs
  • Home boarding for dogs
  • Day care for dogs

The introduction of the regulations now makes the arranging of boarding for dogs or cats a licensable activity, as well as providing boarding.

A licence is required for the hiring out horses in the course of a business for either of the following:

  • Riding
  • Riding lessons

Exemptions to this are any activity solely for military or police, or involving students studying for a veterinary degree under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.

For the activity of hiring out horses, there is a requirement for an annual inspection by a RCVS listed veterinarian, regardless of the total length of the licence.

The test for dog breeding as a licensable activity is either or both of the following;

  • The breeding of three or more litters in any 12 month period
  • The breeding and advertising of a business of selling dogs

Exemptions include;

  • Keeping a dog on any premises as a requirement of the Animal Health Act 1981.
  • Breeding assistance dogs under Section 173 of the Equality Act 2010.
  • If documentary evidence can be produced to show none of the three litters bred have been sold.

If a person keeps or trains animals for exhibition in the course of a business, for the purpose of education or entertainment, a licence is required. This includes exhibition to any audience or any filming/ photo shoots which enables the display of such images.

Exemptions include animals kept and trained for military, police or sporting purposes, any activity permitted under The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012 or the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

For each activity, a number of higher standards have been agreed. Meeting the higher standards is optional but is the only way to gain a higher star rating. The higher standards are classified in to two types: required and optional and are outlined in the relevant guidance documents for the activity in question. To distinguish required standards from optional ones they have each been given a specific colour which is used in each guidance document. Higher standards that appear in blue text are required, whereas those that appear in red text are optional. To qualify as meeting the higher standards, the business needs to achieve all of the required higher standards as well as a minimum of 50% of the optional higher standards.

A risk-based system is used when issuing animal activities licences to determine both the length of the licence and the star rating to award, from 1 to 5 stars. Any new businesses that do not have three years of compliance history with a local authority or a UKAS-accredited body are automatically considered high risk as they have no operational history.

The only exception to the risk scoring and rating system is licences for the keeping or training of animals for exhibition. where all licences are issued for three years. 

Risk based scoring system

Scoring standards

Scoring Matrix

Minor Failings

(existing businesses that are failing to meet minimum standards)

Minimum Standards

(as laid down in the schedules and guidance)

Higher Standards

(as laid down in the guidance)

Low Risk

1 Star

1 year licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 12 month period

3 Star

2 year licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 24 month period

5 Star

3 year licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 36 month period

High Risk

1 Star

1 year licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 12 month period

2 Star

1 year licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 12 month period

4 Star

2 year licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 24 month period