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. Animal welfare regulation

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) came into force on 1 October 2018. The Regulations are made under powers contained in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and requires that any person wishing to carry out the activities listed below in the course of a business must obtain a licence from the local authority where their premises are situated.

The activities are:

  • Selling animals as pets
  • Providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs
  • Hiring out horses
  • Breeding Dogs
  • Training animals for exhibition

The new regulations replace the requirement, in England, to be registered under the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925 or obtain a licence under the Pet Animals Act 1951; the Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1963; the Riding Establishments Act 1964 or the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973.

The regulations will set nationally applicable conditions that licence holders must comply with. A ratings system will be introduced whereby licence holders will be given a rating dependent on specified criteria.

2. Dangerous wild animals

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

3. Keeping or training animals for exhibition

A licence is required if you are keeping or training animals for exhibition in the course of a business for educational or entertainment purposes:

  • To any audience attending in person, or
  • by the recording of visual images of them by any form of technology that enables the display of such images. This does not include keeping or training animals solely for military, police or sporting purposes; any activity permitted to operate under a licence to operate a travelling circus; or any activity permitted under a licence for a zoo.

Inspections & star ratings

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 (including the animals' mental and physical health, feeding and knowledge of environmental enrichment)

  • 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

  • training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them and clear evidence of good supervision of staff The premises itself will also be assessed against the new national standards relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept.

Based on the information, we will assess the risk posed by the business and award a star rating. Low-risk premises can attain up to five stars while premises that have been assessed as higher risk can be awarded up to four stars.

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 will be assessed as slightly higher risk simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered. If you have any concerns, please contact Animal Welfare prior to making an application for a license.

4. Breeding of dogs

A licence is required for either or both of the following

  • breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12 months period;

  • breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs.

This does not include keeping a dog on any premises pursuant to a requirement under the Animal Health Act 1981; breeding only assistance dogs or dogs intended to be used as assistance dogs within the meaning of S173 of the Equality Act 2010; or breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period if the person carrying on the activity provides documentary evidence that none of them have been sold (whether as puppies or as adult dogs).

Inspections & star ratings

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 (including the animals' mental and physical health, feeding and knowledge of environmental enrichment)

  • 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

  • training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them and clear evidence of good supervision of staff The premises itself will also be assessed against the new national standards relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept.

Based on the information, we will assess the risk posed by the business and award a star rating. Low-risk premises can attain up to five stars while premises that have been assessed as higher risk can be awarded up to four stars.

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 will be assessed as slightly higher risk simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered. If you have any concerns, please contact Animal Welfare prior to making an application for a license.

5. Providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for dogs and cats (including day care and homeboarding)

A licence is required if you are providing or arranging the provision of accommodation for other people’s cats or dogs in the course of a business on any premises where the provision of that accommodation is:

  • providing boarding for cats
  • providing boarding in kennels for dogs
  • providing home boarding for dogs; or
  • providing day care for dogs.

Inspections & star ratings

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 (including the animals' mental and physical health, feeding and knowledge of environmental enrichment)

  • 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

  • training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them and clear evidence of good supervision of staff

The premises itself will also be assessed against the new national standards relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept.

Based on the information, we will assess the risk posed by the business and award a star rating. Low-risk premises can attain up to five stars while premises that have been assessed as higher risk can be awarded up to four stars.

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 will be assessed as slightly higher risk simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered. If you have any concerns, please contact Animal Welfare prior to making an application for a license.

6. Hiring out horses

A licence is required if you are hiring out horses in the course of a business for either or both of the following purposes:

  • Riding
  • Instruction in riding

This does not include premises used solely for military or police purposes or involving the instruction of students at a university on a course of study and examination leading to a recognised veterinary degree.

Inspections & star ratings

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 (including the animals' mental and physical health, feeding and knowledge of environmental enrichment)

  • 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

  • training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them and clear evidence of good supervision of staff

The premises itself will also be assessed against the new national standards relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept.

Based on the information, we will assess the risk posed by the business and award a star rating. Low-risk premises can attain up to five stars while premises that have been assessed as higher risk can be awarded up to four stars.

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 will be assessed as slightly higher risk simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered. If you have any concerns, please contact Animal Welfare prior to making an application for a license.

7. Selling animals as pets

A licence is required if you are selling animals as pets (or with a view to their being later resold as pets) in the course of a business including keeping animals in the course of a business with a view to their being so sold or resold. This does not include selling animals in the course of an aquacultural production business authorised under Regulation 5(1) of the Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 or the activity that falls within the definition of breeding of dogs.

Inspection and star ratings

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 (including the animals' mental and physical health, feeding and knowledge of environmental enrichment)

  • 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

  • training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them and clear evidence of good supervision of staff

The premises itself will also be assessed against the new national standards relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept.

Based on the information, we will assess the risk posed by the business and award a star rating. Low-risk premises can attain up to five stars while premises that have been assessed as higher risk can be awarded up to four stars.

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 will be assessed as slightly higher risk simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered. If you have any concerns, please contact Animal Welfare prior to making an application for a license.

8. Zoo

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 animalwelfare@lambeth.gov.uk

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