Animal activities licensing

Types of licence, eligibility, how to apply, renewal period, tacit consent, appeals. 

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 came into force in October 2018. 

Types of licence 

There are 5 licences: 

  • animal boarding 
  • breeding and the sale of dogs 
  • performing animals 
  • selling animals 
  • hire out horses

Boarding for cats and dogs licence 

You need a licence for providing any of the following: 

  • boarding for cats 
  • boarding in kennels for dogs 
  • home boarding for dogs 
  • day care for dogs 

Further information on boarding for cats and dogs.

Breeding dogs 

You need a licence if you either: 

  • breed puppies and advertise them for sale 
  • breed 3 or more litters of puppies a year (unless you can show none of the puppies were sold) 

Further information on breeding dogs.

Performing animals 

You need a licence if you run a business that keeps or trains animals for: 

  • exhibiting purposes 
  • educational purposes  

Further information on keeping or training animals for exhibition.

Selling animals as pets 

You need a licence if you run a business selling animals as pets.

Further information on selling animals as pets

Hiring out horses

If you hire out horses in the following ways, you will need a licence:

  • riding schools
  • horse trekking
  • pony riding parties
  • hiring out horses for hunts (‘hunter hirelings’)
  • polo or polocrosse instruction
  • pony and donkey rides

Further information on hiring out horses.


Only individuals can apply.  

Applications cannot be made by any individual who has: 

  • a specific disqualification 
  • has had certain licenses removed from them in the past 

Please see schedule 8 of the regulations for details of these. 

For further information on the requirements and any exemptions, please see the full Animal Welfare Regulations 2018


To apply, you need to complete 3 forms. 

First, you'll need to complete both these forms:

Then complete the form for the licence you are applying for: 


Please contact us, details below, for information about fees. 

We will contact you to take payment with a debit or credit card over the phone. 

After applying 

After receiving your application, your premises will be inspected and assessed. 


A qualified inspector will check you:  

  • have specialist knowledge in the species you are caring for and a clear understanding of its needs and welfare, including the animal’s: 
    • mental and physical health 
    • feeding  
    • knowledge of environmental enrichment 
  • can show you have researched and followed expert guidance to carry out your role 
  • have complete records of the information required by the conditions that apply to your activities 
  • understand the risks involved in caring for the animal, including a complete risk assessment and written policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly – these documents should be available for the inspector to examine
  • have training procedures in place to ensure staff know what is expected of them 
  • can show evidence of good staff supervision 

The premises are also inspected and assessed to make sure you can meet the laws regarding the physical environment in which the animals will be kept. 

Assessment - risk level and star rating 

After the inspection, you will be given a star rating and risk level. 

Your star rating and risk level determine the length of licence you will be given. 

If you are not happy with your star rating and risk level, you can make improvements to address issues and ask for a reinspection.  

You can also appeal your star rating. Please contact us, details below, to discuss this. 

Higher star rating 

Low-risk premises can get up to 5 stars, and premises that are assessed as higher risk can get up to 4 stars. 

Lower star rating 

A lower star rating does not necessarily mean the premises should be avoided. There are other factors to consider, such as the length of time the licence holder has been operating.  

New businesses are assessed as higher risk as there’s no history of good practice. 

Some older premises cannot get a 5-star rating due to the way they were originally designed. 

Licence renewal period 

If your application is approved, a licence is issued for a period of either 1, 2 or 3 years.    

To continue operating without a break, you must apply to renew your licence at least 10 weeks before it ends.  

Premises licensed under the old legislation will have to apply for a licence under the new regulations when their licence ends. 

We will aim to have your application determined within 10 weeks. This is if your application is valid and complete. 

Tacit consent does not apply. This means if we are unable to determine your application in this time, a licence will not be automatically granted. This is due to animal welfare implications. 


You may appeal a decision to: 

  • refuse to grant or renew a licence 
  • revoke or change a licence 

Please contact us, details below, if you wish to do this. 

Contact the licensing team