You need different licences around breeding, keeping and selling animals. You will need a licence to keep dangerous animals, to run a pet shop, to breed dogs and to board animals.

Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. Dangerous animal licences

You need a licence to keep some animals considered to be wild, dangerous or exotic such as;

  • wild cats
  • primates
  • wild dogs, eg wolves
  • certain pigs, eg wild boar
  • marsupials

Hybrid or cross-bred animals may need a licence, depending on how far removed the animal is from its wild ancestor.

The Act does not apply to any dangerous wild animal kept in:

  • a zoo
  • a circus
  • premises licensed as a pet shop
  • a registered establishment for carrying out animal experiments

2. Performing animals licence

You need to apply to register with Lambeth if you want to exhibit, use or train performing animals in England, Scotland or Wales.

You’ll need to give details of the animals and the performances they’ll be taking part in when you apply. You also need to pay the appropriate fee.

If the council approves your application, they will give you a certificate confirming that you have the right to keep the animals and use them in performance.

A police officer or other authorised officer may:

  • enter any premises where performing animals are kept
  • inspect the premises to check that the animals are kept in suitable conditions that meet health, welfare and safety standards
  • ask you to produce your certificate of registration

You don’t need to register if you train or exhibit animals for use by the military or police, or for agriculture or sport.

If a complaint of cruelty is proven against you, you can:

  • be banned from exhibiting or training performing animals
  • have conditions imposed on your registration
  • lose your registration

You can be fined up to £2,500 if you exhibit or train any performing animal without being registered. You may also be banned from exhibiting or training performing animals.

3. Dog breeding licence

You must have a dog breeding licence if you breed five or more puppy litters during any 12 month period.

A vet will visit and will want to see that your dogs:

  • live in suitable accommodation
  • receive adequate food, water and bedding
  • get enough exercise
  • are transported in safe and comfortable conditions
  • are protected in case of fire or other emergency
  • are protected from the spread of disease.

Your licence will be valid for one year.

You must renew your licence before the expiry date if you wish to continue as a dog breeder.

4. Animal boarding licence

If you wish to run a boarding kennel or cattery in the borough of Lambeth you must apply for a licence. An animal boarding establishment is a business that provides accommodation for other people’s dogs or cats.

An animal boarding establishment licence needs to be renewed every year. The license expires on 31st December regardless of when the license was granted.

You still need to apply for a licence even if you’re only looking after a small number of animals in your own home. A “boarding establishment” also includes the business of home boarding and doggy day care or crèches. A reduced application fee applies to home boarding and doggy day care/crèches.

We may inspect your premises before giving you a licence, and any time after your licence is granted.

You’ll need to show that the animals you look after are:

  • kept in suitable accommodation
  • provided with adequate food, drink and bedding
  • regularly exercised
  • safeguarded in an emergency
  • protected from infectious disease – this includes providing isolation facilities

Your council may also add other conditions to your licence.

You need to keep a register available for inspection by a vet or other council-approved officer, containing:

  • a description of all the animals you’ve kept
  • their arrival and departure dates
  • the name and address of their owners

You will not be given a licence if you’ve been banned from keeping a pet shop, or convicted of any other animal welfare offences.

You can be fined up to £500 or imprisoned for up to 3 months, or both, if you run an animal boarding establishment without a licence, or don’t follow the conditions of your licence.

Your licence can be taken away if you stop or delay an inspection, and you could be banned from running an animal boarding establishment.

5. Riding establishment licence

If you want to run a riding establishment in the borough of Lambeth, you’ll need to apply for a licence and pay the appropriate fee. A riding establishment is a business that hires out horses or ponies for riding, or a riding school. A riding establishment licence needs to be renewed every year. The licence runs out on 31st December regardless of when it was issued.

You’ll need to prove that you have suitable qualifications and experience of horse management, and that your horses are:

  • in good health and physically fit
  • suitable to be hired out and used for riding
  • provided with adequate food, drink and bedding
  • regularly exercised
  • safeguarded in an emergency

You also need liability insurance that covers you for any injuries that result from people riding your horses.

You must keep a register of horses aged 3 years or under that are usually kept on your premises, and make it available for inspection.

You must be over 18 to apply for a licence. You will not be given a licence if you’ve committed any animal health or welfare offences, or if you’ve been banned from:

  • running a riding establishment
  • running a pet shop
  • keeping animals, including in a boarding kennel or cattery

You must not leave anyone under 16 years old in charge of the riding establishment. Any riders under 16 must be supervised, unless you’re satisfied that they are competent to ride without supervision.

The council may inspect your premises and horses before giving you a licence, and any time after your licence is granted. If the inspector finds that any of your horses need veterinary attention, you must provide a certificate to show they are fit again before returning them to work.

You can be fined up to £5,000 or imprisoned for up to three months, or both, if you run a riding establishment without a licence.

6. Pet shop licence

A pet shop is any building where animals are sold as pets, including your own home. You can’t sell animals as pets in public places - eg from a market stall.

However, you don’t need a licence to sell:

  • pedigree animals that you’ve bred
  • animals that are offspring of your own pet

We may carry out an inspection to check that:

  • the accommodation will be suitable for the animals
  • you’ll provide enough food and drink and visit the animals regularly where necessary
  • you’ll take reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of infectious diseases
  • mammals won’t be sold if they’re too young
  • you have appropriate plans in case of fire or other emergencies

We may also add other specific conditions to your licence.

If you run a pet shop without a licence, or break the terms of your licence, you could be fined up to £500 and/or imprisoned for up to 3 months.

7. Zoo licence

You’ll need a zoo licence if you’ll be displaying wild animals to the public for at least 7 days a year, in any place that’s not a circus or pet shop.

To get a licence your zoo must:

  • help educate people about biodiversity
  • be suitable for the types of animals you’re keeping
  • have a high standard of animal care
  • do as much as possible to stop any animals escaping
  • stop pests and vermin getting into the zoo

You must also do at least one of the following:

  • conservation research or training
  • sharing conservation information
  • captive animal breeding
  • helping repopulate or reintroduce species into the wild

Before you can get a licence you’ll need to tell your local council how you’ll do this.

You must make sure the zoo will not affect:

  • the health and safety of local people
  • local law and order
  • the animals’ well-being

You also won’t get a licence if anyone working in or managing the zoo has committed an animal welfare offence.

How to apply Write to your council at least 2 months notice before applying. You must give details about:

  • where the zoo will be
  • what kind of animals you’re going to keep and how many
  • how you’ll house and care for the animals
  • staff numbers and what they’ll be doing
  • expected visitor and vehicle numbers
  • zoo entrance and exit points
  • how you’ll meet the conservation conditions

You must also:

  • publish notice that you’re intending to apply in at least 1 local and 1 national newspaper
  • display the notice at the planned zoo site
  • send a copy to the council

The address to write to is: Animal Welfare Services 26 Wanless Road London SE24 0HW Or you can call 020 7926 8860 or email

Before you get your licence your premises will be inspected. You may have to pay a fee for this. You’ll get at least 28 days’ notice before the inspection.

After the inspection the council might attach conditions to your licence, eg that you’ll need to get insurance for any damage caused by the animals.

If you get a licence you’ll be inspected regularly to make sure you’re following these conditions. You must keep records on animal health, numbers and species, acquisitions, births, deaths (with causes), disposals and escapes.

Your licence will need to be renewed after 4 years. You might have to follow the same process you used to get the original licence. If you get your licence renewed it will then last for 6 years. You’ll need to apply to renew it again 6 months before it expires.

If you want to transfer your licence to someone else the local authority will have to approve it first.

You must display your licence or a copy of it at each entrance to the zoo.

You could be fines up to £2,500 if you run a zoo without a licence or don’t follow the conditions of a licence. You could also get a fine of up to £1,000 if you:

  • stop a zoo inspector doing their job properly
  • don’t display your zoo licence properly