Industry sector: Consumer services

Boarding kennel: Licences

The Animal Welfare (licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, which came into force on 1 October 2018, require anyone who provides boarding for cats or dogs in England to apply to their local authority for an animal activity licence. Before issuing a licence, inspectors appointed by the local authority will inspect the premises and make recommendations as to whether the applicant's conduct as the operator of a licensable activity shows them to be a 'fit and proper person'.

A fee is payable for a license, which can be granted for one, two or three years. The general licence conditions will cover:

  • the requirement to display the licence
  • the records to be maintained
  • number and type of animals that can be boarded
  • staffing requirements
  • the suitability of the environment
  • dietary requirements
  • interaction with the animals
  • protection from pain, suffering and disease
  • emergency procedures

The regulations provide for fines and/or imprisonment for operating without a licence and fines for breaching the licence terms.

Under the transitional arrangements, any unexpired licence under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963 continues in force for the remainder of its term.

The commercial provision of home boarding or daycare for dogs in England is also covered by the requirement for an animal activities licence.

Animal welfare is a devolved activity so these changes don't apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, each administration is reviewing the legislation and it is very likely that changes will be made in the near future.

Under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act (in Scotland and Wales and similar legislation in Northern Ireland), all proprietors of boarding kennels require a licence from the local authority. This will only be granted after a visit by a local authority officer, who must be satisfied that the business meets the required standards. In addition, many authorities require that the proprietor has an appropriate qualification before they will issue a licence. The number of dogs and cats for which the premises is licensed must be specified on the licence, and a copy of the licence itself must be displayed at the premises. There is an annual fee for the licence - this varies depending on your local authority. Licences are renewed annually.

Kennel & Cattery Design specialises in providing practical guidance on starting up a pet boarding establishment, including design and licensing requirements. You can find out more about their Starting a kennels kit on the Kennel Design website.

International Cat Care publishes advice and guidance on constructing and setting up a cattery. You can find out more on their website.

Most local authorities require pet home boarding providers (people who accept a limited number of animals to be looked after in their homes) to be licensed and to meet licensing conditions. However, there is some inconsistency over how licensing requirements and standards are set and enforced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Pet sitters (people who stay in the pet owner's home to look after their animals) do not require a licence.

Pet sitters and home boarding providers might decide to get a background criminal record check to reassure their customers, but there is no legal requirement to do this.

There is more information about licensing of animal boarding establishments on the website. For information about local licensing requirements and conditions contact your local authority environmental health department.

Be aware that you will almost certainly require planning permission if you're building or converting your boarding unit.