Animal Activity licence

Changes to the animal licensing laws

The Government has published updated legislation, The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations under Section 13 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The regulations came into effect on 1 October 2018 and will replace the licensing and registration currently in place under the following legislation:

  • Pet Animals Act 1951
  • Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963
  • Riding Establishments Acts 1964 & 1970
  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 & Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999
  • Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925

Please note the guidance is often reviewed and updated by DEFRA – the latest review will come into force 1 February 2022, all new licence applications and renewals after this date must comply with the updated guidance.

Under the new laws a number of animal related activities will all be covered under a single type of licence, known as an animal activity licence, rather than under separate licences. The legislation is accompanied by new nationally set licence conditions which are contained in Schedules 3 to 7 of the regulations. We cannot change these conditions as they are already set in the legislation.

The animal activities covered by this new licence are:

  • Selling animals as pets
  • Providing (or arranging to provide) accommodation for other people’s cats or dogs
    • Boarding for cats
    • Boarding in kennels for dogs
    • Home boarding for dogs
    • Day care for dogs.
  • Hiring out horses (for riding and/or instruction in riding)
  • Breeding dogs
  • Keeping or training animals for exhibition

The circumstances which a local authority must take into account in determining whether an activity is being carried on in the course of a business for the purpose of this Schedule include, for example, whether the operator:

(a) makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit; or

(b) earns any commission or fee from the activity.

Businesses operating any of these activities will need to comply with the new conditions, and will be assessed before the licence is granted to make sure they can meet them.

Local authorities must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State in carrying out their functions under these Regulations.

The general procedural guidance and new conditions and guidance for each of the animal activities are set out under Application process below.

The application process

New applicants are advised to allow up to three months for the application and decision process. New applicants for Dog Breeding or Hiring of Horses will be inspected by a council appointed veterinarian in additional to the local authority inspector.

Links to application forms for each licence type can be found below. Please note, if an operator will be carrying out more than one of the licensable activities, Section 2 for the relevant activity must be completed for each activity.

Please note when completing and submitting your application:

  • The licence holder must be a named person.
  • An individual is unable to apply for or hold a licence if they have been disqualified or had a licence revoked as per Schedule 8 of the Regulations.
  • The applicant must supply a basic criminal record certificate that at the time of application is less than three months old.
    This is required as local authorities must take into account an applicant’s suitability to be the operator of the activity when considering the grant of a licence and can consider any relevant information.
  • A basic disclosure certificate only contains details of any unspent convictions as of the date the certificate is issued. It can be applied for online at Applications will not be considered unless accompanied by the disclosure certificate.

PDF document Procedural Guidance for Animal Activity Licensing February 2022(PDF) [415 kb]

Animal boarding - dogs and cats

Breeding dogs

Animals for exhibition

Hiring out horses

Selling animals as pets

Fees and charges

Licensing fees and charges vary between animal activities and can be viewed by visiting our Licence Fees webpage.


All premises will be inspected before the licence is granted. The premises itself will also be assessed so we can be sure the licence holder can meet the new laws relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept.

The inspector will be looking to make sure the applicant has the following:

  • firstly the welfare standards observed, which are based upon assessment of a range of criteria, including records, staffing, the environment, diet, and the protection of the animals from pain and suffering. The inspection findings will determine whether there are 'minor failings', 'minimum standards' are achieved or 'higher standards' have been met.
  • Secondly, the risk, which is largely based on the history of compliance of the business, and also upon the licence holder's appreciation of hazards and risks. The overall risk will be determined as being either 'low' or 'higher'.

Staff should have a specialist knowledge in the species they are caring for and a clear understanding of its needs and welfare - i.e. mental and physical health, feeding, and knowledge of environmental enrichment. They should also have an understanding of risks involved in caring for the animal, including an extensive risk assessment and written policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly. There should be training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them, and clear evidence of good supervision of staff. These documents should be available for the Inspector to examine.

Duration of licences

The Secretary of State guidance includes a risk based system that must be used when issuing animal activity licences.

The inspection findings will be fed into the following scoring matrix which determines both the licence duration (either one, two or three years), but also a star rating which will be given to a business.

This matrix does not apply to the activity of keeping or training animals for exhibition, which will all receive a three year licence.

Scoring Matrix table for welfare standards

If the applicant is not happy with the decision, they 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 the licence holder has been operating.

New businesses will be assessed as higher risk simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered.

For further information, please visit our guidance and frequently asked questions webpage.

Dangerous Wild Animals and Zoos

The new regulations do not have any impact upon licences issued under The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

Contact details

Licensing Team

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