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Licensing of activities involving animals

Under new laws, an animal activity licence now covers:

  • animal boarding businesses (including home boarders and day carers)
  • dog breeders
  • pet shops
  • riding establishments

An animal activity licence has new conditions for businesses providing animal-related services.

Businesses operating with the above activities will be assessed to make sure they comply with the conditions before a licence is given. An inspector will apply a risk rating and award stars for compliance with licence conditions. Low-risk premises can be awarded up to five stars, and high-risk premises up to four stars. The risk rating and stars determine whether applicants must renew their licence in one, two or three years.

Businesses can continue operating under current licences until it expires. They will need to apply to renew their licence under the new laws, ten weeks before the renewal date.

If a business provides more than one activity involving animals, they will be issued with a single risk rating. Stars will be based on the activities with the highest risk and lowest stars.

If the business makes improvements to issues in the assessment, they can request a re-inspection for an additional fee.

A business with a lower star rating is not necessarily one to avoid, as there are other factors we consider, including how long the licence holder has been operating. New businesses are assessed as slightly higher risk because there is no history of good practice.

It is a criminal offence to run unlicensed activities involving animals. If convicted you could be liable for imprisonment up to 51 weeks and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

Animal boarding

You need a licence to look after cats or dogs, whether commercially or at home:

Apply for commercial boarding licence (PDF)

Apply for day care licence (PDF)

Apply for home boarding licence (PDF)

Dog breeding

You need a licence if you breed three or more litters of puppies in any twelve month period, or breed dogs and advertise a business selling dogs. View guidance on dog breeding.

Apply for a dog breeding licence (PDF)

Hiring out horses

You need a licence if your business hires out horses for riding or riding lessons. This includes:

  • riding schools
  • trekking
  • loan horses
  • pony parties (only where the ponies are ridden)
  • hunter hirelings
  • polo/polocrosse instruction and pony hire
  • pony and donkey rides

View guidance for hiring out horses.

Performing and exhibiting animals

You need a licence if your business keeps or trains animals for exhibition, either for education or entertainment, where there is an audience or the animals are visually recorded for display. View guidance for keeping or training animals for exhibition.

Application for a performing/exhibiting animals licence (PDF)

Application for pet shops

You need a licence if your business sells animals as pets, this includes selling animals to someone else for them to sell. View guidance for selling animals as pets.

Apply to sell animals as pets (PDF)

For more information see: