Animal Activities Licensing: The New Regime

On 1 October 2018 new regulations come into force, which provide for the licensing of persons whose work involves selling animals as pets, providing or arranging boarding for cats or dogs, hiring out horses, breeding dogs or keeping or training animals for exhibition.

The Animal Welfare (licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (“the regulations”) replace previous requirements contained in the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925, the Pet Animals Act 1951, the Animals Boarding Establishments Act 1963, the Riding Establishments Act 1964 and the Breeding of Dogs Act 1963.

The RSPCA has expressed the view that the new regulations “have the potential to make a significant improvement in animal welfare and are certainly a big improvement on the old regimes under the new legislation. They put animal welfare and consideration of the five welfare needs at the heart of the licensing regime and provide a practical yet evidence based approach for licensing officers to make objective assessments from. They ensure that activities not previously covered, or ones that have become more widespread since the original legislation was passed, as well as species that are more commonly kept now, are captured within the framework. For example: dog creches, exotic pets, internet sales etc.”

The requirement for a licence

Under the new regulations, any person who wants to carry out any of the activities in England, will need to apply to their local authority for a single licence. Generally the activity only requires a licence where it is being carried out “in the course of a business”, except for the breeding of dogs, where a licence will usually be required to breed three or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period (unless they bred as assistance dogs, or there is documentary evidence to show that none of them have been sold, or they are kept pursuant to a requirement under the Animal Health Act 1981). Otherwise, there are a few exceptions where a licence is not required, for example the keeping or training of animals solely for military, police or sporting purposes.


The regulations set out a framework for local authorities to follow when considering licensing applications. These provide for the appointment of inspectors, to inspect premises (to include a veterinarian in the case of horse-riding and dog breeding premises) and to take samples from animals for laboratory testing. A local authority must also take account of the applicant’s conduct as the operator of the licensable activity, whether he or she is “a fit and proper person” and any other relevant circumstances.

To support local authority officers in this work, statutory guidance for each of the activities is being developed, setting out information they need to consider and check when carrying out inspections.

In considering applications and carrying out inspections, a local authority may charge such reasonable fees as it considers necessary.

Licenses may be granted for one, two or three years, except in relation to animals for exhibition for which the period is three years.

Licence conditions

Prescribed conditions must be attached to each licence, including general conditions and relevant specific conditions. The general conditions cover:

  1. Licence display
  2. Records
  3. Use number and type of animal
  4. Staffing
  5. Suitable environment
  6. Suitable diet
  7. Monitoring of behaviour and training of animals
  8. Animal handling and interactions
  9. Protection from pain suffering injury and disease
  10. Emergencies

The relevant specific conditions vary from activity to activity, and further detail such things as the particular records to be kept and the welfare requirements for different types of animals.

Suspension, variation and revocation

A local authority may suspend, vary or revoke a licence at any time, where satisfied that the licence conditions are not being complied with, there has been a breach of the regulations, the licence holder has supplied false or misleading information, or it is necessary to protect the welfare of an animal.

Where a licence is varied or suspended there is a right to make written representations within seven working days.

Once a licence has been suspended for 28 days, it must either be reinstated (with or without variation) or revoked.

Where an application for a licence is refused, revoked or varied, there is a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, within 28 days.


It is an offence for a person, without lawful authority or excuse, to breach a licence condition or obstruct an inspector in the exercise of his powers. Such offences are punishable by a fine.

A person who carries on a licensable activity without a licence, also commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine or both.

Following conviction a court may also cancel any licence held, and disqualify a person from holding a licence and/or owning or keeping animals.

Transitional arrangements

Any unexpired licences granted under the Pet Animals Act 1951, the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963, the Riding Establishments Act 1964, the Riding Establishments Act 1970 and the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 are to continue in force for the remainder of their term. Any registration under the Performing Animals (Regulations) 1925 is continue in force for a period of six months from the date on which the new regulations come into force (i.e. until 1 April 2019).

For advice on animal licensing or animal welfare, please contact Tim Ryan on 01732 770660 or email [email protected]

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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