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Animal welfare licensing

On the 1 October 2018, the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018 No. 486) came into force. These regulations replace a number of pieces of legislation and provide for a new single licensing regime for the following animal licensing activities:

  • Selling animals as pets
  • Providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs (including home boarding for dogs)
  • Hiring out horses
  • Breeding dogs
  • Keeping or training animals for exhibition

If you have a licence under the old legislation then it will continue to be valid until it is due to expire, unless you have a registration under the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925, in which case it shall continue to be in force until the 31st March 2019. You will then have to apply for a licence under the new regulations.

View the regulations (opens new window)

Register of licensed premises for animal activities

How do the regulations affect licences issued under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and the Zoo Licensing Act 1981?

The new regulations do not have any impact on the licensing of those who keep dangerous wild animals or operate zoos. Licences for these activities will continue to be issued under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

What standards will I be expected to meet to obtain a licence?

All operators must meet the general conditions set out in Schedule 2 to the above Regulations and also comply with the specific conditions relevant to the licensable activity they are proposing to undertake.

DEFRA has produced guidance on each licensable activity and has defined these conditions as the minimum standards. You will need to meet the requirements of all the minimum standards, although minor failings may be noted/recorded providing they do not compromise the welfare of the animals (these should be predominantly administrative in nature).

In addition, the guidance for each licensable activity (with the exception of the keeping or training animals for exhibition) also stipulates further optional conditions for "Higher Standards", which if met would result in a higher star rating.

General guidanceand conditions

Cat boarding licensing (opens new window)

Conditions for the boarding of cats (opens new window)

Dog kennel boarding licensing (opens new window)

Conditions for the boarding of dogs in kennels (opens new window)

Home boarding for dogs licensing (opens new window)

Conditions for the home boarding of dogs (opens new window)

Dog breeding licensing (opens new window)

Conditions for the breeding of dogs (opens new window)

Dog day care licensing (opens new window)

Conditions for dog day care (opens new window)

Keeping or training animals for exhibition licensing (opens new window)

Conditions for the exhibition of animals (opens new window)

Hiring out horses licensing (opens new window)

Conditions for the hiring out of horses (opens new window)

Selling animals as pets licensing (opens new window)

Conditions for selling animals as pets (opens new window)

Who can apply for a licence?

Any individual, who will be designated as the operator of the business, can apply for a licence providing they:

  1. can demonstrate that they are a fit and proper person to carry out the licensable activity and meet the licence conditions; and
  2. are not disqualified from holding a licence in accordance with Regulation 11 and Schedule 8.

How to apply

To apply for a licence, applicants must complete and submit an application form accompanied by the appropriate fee and relevant documentation.

An Inspector from the Council will visit the premises to assess compliance. In certain circumstances a veterinary inspection may also be undertaken.

Download and apply for a licence (pdf)


The Licence will be issued subject to compliance with the licence conditions and payment of the licence fee.

Animal licence fees are payable at the time of application as a single transaction and are non-refundable. Veterinarian fees will apply separately to first dog breeding inspections and to all riding establishment inspections that are carried out during the application phase and also during the life of the licence.

Animal Licensing Fees (pdf)

How long does the licence last?

The licence is valid for one or two years for all new applicants, and one, two or three years for previous licence holders. The length of licence will be determined by the star rating which takes into consideration the risk of an operator breaching any licence conditions and whether the operator is meeting higher standards of animal welfare than is required by the standard licence conditions. Licence holders will receive a written reminder prior to the expiry of their Licence.

For each activity (except keeping or training animals for exhibition) a number of "higher standards" have been stipulated by DEFRA in its guidance for each activity. Meeting the higher standards is optional but is the only way to gain the highest star rating. The higher standards are classified into two categories; required and optional. In the guidance, these will be colour coded into blue and red respectively. To qualify as meeting the higher standards the business must achieve all of the required standards as well as a minimum of 50% of the optional higher standards.

A business may wish to apply for a re‐inspection or re‐rating, on a chargeable basis, following the completion of any works required to rectify any non‐compliance or improvements in order to achieve higher standards.

The table below shows the scoring matrix that will be used to determine the star rating:

Scoring matrix
 Minor failings
Existing businesses that fail to meet required standards
Required standards
As specified  in the regulations
Higher standards
As specified in the guidance
Low risk
Existing businesses that score 17 or less on the risk scoring table
1 Star
1 year licence
3 Stars
2 year licence
5 Stars
3 year licence
High risk
Businesses that score 18 or more on the risk scoring table
1 Star
1 year licence
2 Stars
1 year licence
4 Stars
2 year licence

Planning requirements

Your application for a licence will need to consider whether planning permission is required for the proposed licensed activity. You should contact the planning authority to discuss whether permission will be needed. Your application for a licence will not be processed until the planning issue has been decided.

How long will it take to process my application?

If we have not contacted you to make arrangements to complete an inspection within 14 days of your application, please contact us to check that your application was correctly made and received.

Once an application has been made, an Inspector will carry out an inspection of the premises. The Inspector will be accompanied by a listed veterinarian when carrying out inspections related to the activity for hiring out horses. A veterinarian will also accompany the Inspector when carrying out the first inspection for a licence to breed dogs.

Following the inspection, operators will be risk rated using a standard 14 point criteria which includes factors such as compliance history, complaints, welfare standards and management standards. This scoring system will determine if the operator is either 'low risk' (a score of 17 or less) or 'high risk' (a score of 18 or more).

The Council will consider the report from the inspector and any comments made by the applicant when deciding whether to issue a licence.

The Council must refuse to issue a licence if it considers that the applicant cannot meet the licence conditions, other than minor failings, or the granting of a licence would have a negative impact on animal welfare or if the level of accommodation, staffing or management is inadequate for the well‐being of the animals. A licence cannot be issued to an operator who is disqualified from keeping a pet shop, dog, animal boarding establishment, riding establishment or from having custody of animals.

The Council will endeavour to make a decision on a licence application within a period of 10 weeks, however this may take longer if further information is required. If the local authority deems it to be appropriate to issue a licence following the application you will then be required to pay the issuing fee in order to receive the licence.

Offences and penalties

There are a number of animal related convictions which will not allow a person to make an application for a licence. These are listed within Schedule 8 of the Regulations.

Power of entry

Sunderland City Council may authorise competent persons to enter premises either licensed under the act or specified in an application for a licence, at all reasonable times, producing if required their authority, and the authorised officers may inspect these premises and an animal or animals in them.

Your right to appeal

Any person aggrieved by a refusal to be granted a licence may appeal to a First Tier Tribunal within 28 days of the decision notice.

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