Animal welfare licences

Laws relating to Animal Activity Licensing have been in place since October 2018. Animal boarding businesses (including home boarders and day carers), dog breeders, pet shops, riding establishments and people that keep or train animals for exhibitions are covered under a single type of licence (known as an 'animal activity licence'), with nationally set licence conditions.

Businesses operating with these activities will need to comply with conditions set out in this law, and will be assessed before the licence is granted to make sure they can meet them. 

The licence conditions that applicants need to meet for each of the animal activities covered are set out below:


Please see our licensing fees and charges page.


You can apply by downloading the form below.

To help applicants, guidance notes for each of the licensable activities are set out below. These contain further information on what will be required to meet the conditions, a set of which will be included on the granted licence. They also provide advice as to what steps applicants can take to possibly achieve a higher star rating. Once a completed application and payment has been received, we will examine the information provided, then contact applicants to arrange an inspection.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) updated this guidance on 1 October 2023, so applicants need to make sure they are working with the updated information below when putting their applications together. Licences that have recently been issued under the old guidance will remain valid until renewal.

It is important that applicants check they have the correct permissions to use their property or premises for the business applied for, and we will not inspect a premises until proof has been provided to us that permissions are in place, which should be submitted along with the application. Examples are that there may be restrictions on running businesses in domestic Council properties or that the premises needs planning permission to operate this type of business. It's important to do this before applying, as the application fee is not refundable. Checks will be carried out by us to ensure all relevant permissions, such as planning consent and housing permissions, are in place at the application stage.


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

  • A specialist knowledge in the species that they 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. The applicant should be able to demonstrate that they have researched and followed expert guidance in order to carry out their role.
  • 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. Training and development of the licence holder and/or staff should be ongoing, and we would look for evidence of this at each renewal.

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.

Based on the application, and the information given to us at the inspection, we will assess the risk rating and award stars using a scoring method created by DEFRA, which is a requirement under the new scheme. 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 the applicant is not satisfied 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 are likely to be assessed as slightly higher risk simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered. We would advise that, as stated above, the scoring method is one we must use to comply with Government requirements, and the ratings given should not be seen as a recommendation by the Council.

If customers have any concerns, please contact the Licensing Team prior to making a purchase or making booking arrangements.

Animal Licensing Policy

Our Animal Licensing Policy was agreed in November 2019. It sets out guidance on what existing licence holders and potential applicants need to consider when applying for licences, and what they can expect from us.

Public register

Details of the businesses which have been licensed to provide animal-related activities can be found in our public register, which can be viewed below:

Dog walking

Although dog walking doesn’t require an Animal Activity licence, professional dog walkers (and other interested people) may find the Professional Dog Walker's Guide, issued by the Canine and Feline Sector Group, helpful.

Contact us

Telephone: 01442 228470 / 228860

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Page Last Updated: Sunday, 31 March 2024 at 11:02 PM