Animal Welfare

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

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

The law governing the licensing of animal welfare establishments changed on the 1st October 2018.

Under the new legislation, animal boarding businesses (including dog home boarding, dog day care centres, dog kennels and catteries), dog breeders, pet shops, exhibition animals and riding establishments are now covered under a single type of licence. It is known as an 'animal activity licence' with new nationally-set licence conditions for businesses providing animal-related services.

The regulations and a full list of detailed guidance documents can be found at the bottom of this web page.

Understanding the New Changes

It is important that licence holders understand the new detailed guidance relevant to their business but as a start your attention is drawn to the following key changes:

  • Licences can be issued for one, two or three years.
  • The licence fees will be calculated based on the "reasonable anticipated costs" of the licensing process.
  • Protection is provided for licences in the event of the death of the licence holder.
  • Specific training qualifications have been introduced for licensing inspectors.
  • A performance rating system is to be introduced and linked to the period of the licence.
  • Licences can be varied, suspended or revoked. An appeals process is established for both alterations to the licence and the performance rating.
  • Emphasis is put on the suitability of the environment for the particular needs of the animal.
  • Emphasis for animal welfare is put on the management arrangements.
  • Isolation facilities must be adequate and appropriate.


All premises will be inspected before the licence application is determined. The inspector will be looking to make sure the licence applicant has the following:

  • 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.
  • Comprehensive records that contain all the information required by the conditions that apply to their particular activities.
  • 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 inspection findings will be fed into a scoring matrix which determines both the licence duration (either 1, 2 or 3 years - see below), but also a star rating which will be given to a business.

One to Three Year Licensing

Licences will be granted (or renewed) for a period of one, two or three years. In deciding on the length of the licence there will be a risk based assessment system looking at:

  • the risk of an operator breaching any licence conditions;
  • the impact on animal welfare on any such breaches;
  • and whether the operator is already meeting higher standards of animal welfare than are required by the licence conditions.

It is this Council's policy that all businesses applying for their first Animal Activity Licence will initially be considered for a one year licence.

Dog Breeding


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

is now required to hold a licence.

The regulations introduce specific requirements about advertisements for the sale of dogs, which will need to include:

  • the dog breeding licence number;
  • the local authority that issued the licence;
  • a recognisable photo of the dog being advertised, and,
  • the age of the dog being advertised.

The sale of puppies below eight weeks of age is strictly prohibited.

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 Us

We intend sending out a regular emailed newsletter on the new licensing process. Please sign up to these email updates by emailing and title your email SIGN UP TO ANIMAL WELFARE LICENSING NEWSLETTER .

Animal Welfare Act

The aim of the Animal Welfare Act is to improve the welfare of animals, impose greater responsibility on their carers, and provide greater investigation and entry powers for Police and Local Authority staff to deal with offences.

Under Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is the duty of any person responsible for an animal to ensure that its welfare needs are met including:

  • The need for a suitable environment (how it is housed)
  • The need for a suitable diet (what it eats and drinks)
  • The need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • Any need to be housed with or apart from other animals, and
  • The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act

Depending on the type of offence and animals involved, enforcement is shared between the RSPCA, Police, Local Authorities and DEFRA.


The Local Authority, Police or a member of the public can undertake a prosecution which can be started up to 3 years after the offence (as long as its is within 6 months of the evidence becoming available).

Reporting an injured or mistreated animal

If you know about an animal that is injured or being treated cruelly, please call the RSPCA's national 24-hour cruelty and advice line on 0300 1234 999.