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Apply for an Animal Licence

Animal licensing laws

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 came into effect on 1 October 2018 and introduced a licensing regime to control the following “licensable activities”:

  • selling animals as pets
  • providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs
  • hiring out horses
  • breeding dogs
  • keeping or training animals for exhibition

These regulations replace the licensing and registration regimes previously in place under the following legislation:

  • Pet Animals Act 1951
  • Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963
  • Riding Establishments Acts 1970
  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999
  • Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925

If you have a licence under one of the above pieces of legislation that is in force on 1 October 2018, it will continue to be valid until it is due to expire. You will then need to apply for a licence under the new regulations.

Selling animals as pets

The definition of selling animals as pets is: 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.

Examples of selling animals as pets are:

  • The import, distribution and sale of animals by a business.
  • Businesses registered with Companies House.
  • Businesses or individuals operating from domestic premises for commercial purposes (it should be noted that many may not be listed with Companies House).
  • Premises open to members of the public or to other businesses where animals are available for purchase. 

This list is not exhaustive and applications will be assessed on a case by case basis.

If your business fulfils one or more of this criteria then you require a licence. You can view the guidance and apply for a licence to sell pets here.

Providing or arranging for the provision of boarding cats or dogs

The definition of providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs is: providing or arranging for 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 a purpose of the business.

This includes:

  • catteries
  • kennels
  • home boarding of dogs
  • dog day care

You require a licence if you are operating one or more of the functions listed above. You can view the guidance and apply for a licence here.

Dog Breeding

The definition of Dog Breeding is either or both of the following:

(a) breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period;
(b) breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs.

Examples of breeding which meet this criteria are:

  • anyone breeding three or more litters of puppies per year (unless they can show that none of the puppies have been sold).
  • anyone breeding puppies and advertising a business of selling them, as defined under the business test outlined above. This is irrespective of the number of litters produced per year. This is not restricted to registered businesses – individuals can also be classed as a business depending on the extent of their activities.
  • factors that should be considered when determining whether someone is “advertising a business” include:
  • the number, frequency and/or volume of sales - systematic and repeated transactions using the same means of advertising are likely to indicate a commercial activity.
  • high volumes of animals sold or advertised for sale could indicate a business.
  • low volumes of animals sold or advertised could indicate a business where high sales prices or large profit margins are involved.
  • high range and variability in the breeds traded. A wide variety of breeds being advertised could indicate the commercial nature of the activity.
  • high numbers of advertisements of puppies for sale, including on classified websites, could indicate commercial behaviour, even where there is no actual sale taking place via the internet. This could be high numbers of advertisements at any one time or over a short period of time, and/or regularly.
  • advertising through a variety of sites, forums or media could indicate a commercial activity.

Examples of breeding which do not meet this criteria are:

  • breeders who can provide documented evidence, if requested, that none of the puppies were sold or that they kept all of the puppies themselves. Documented evidence will need to include records of the new owners of all of the puppies and provide details on why there was no transaction involved (including in kind).
  • registered charities that rehome puppies that are born to rescue dogs, unless such registered charities are in practice running this element of their operations as a commercial activity.
  • anyone breeding only assistance dogs as defined in the Equality Act 2010 (e.g.. Guide Dogs for the Blind).
  • anyone keeping a dog under the Animal Health Act 1981.
  • organisations regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
  • breeders that breed a small number of puppies (i.e... less than 3 litters per year), and that sell them without making a profit.

These lists are not exhaustive and applications will be assessed on a case by case basis.

If you are breeding dogs and fit this criteria you require a licence to breed dogs. You can view the guidance and apply for a licence here.

Hiring out Horses

The definition of Hiring out Horses is: hiring out horses in the course of a business for either or both of the following purposes:

(a) riding;
(b) instruction in riding.

Examples of hiring out horses which fit the criteria are:

  • businesses which hire out horses for riding or for riding lessons. This includes riding schools and those that hire out horses, trekking, loan horses, pony parties (but only where the ponies are ridden), hunter hirelings, polo/polocrosse instruction and pony hire, pony and donkey rides.

Examples of hiring out horses which do not fit the criteria are:

  • businesses that run pony parties where none of the ponies are ever ridden – these should be licensed as animal exhibits.
  • activities that are carried out solely for military or police purposes (e.g... riding stables that are used exclusively for these purposes).
  • riding stables that are used exclusively for instructing veterinary students at university for the purpose of their course.
  • individuals who occasionally lend a horse, even if a small fee is charged, where there is no profit made and no intent to make a profit.

These lists are not exhaustive and applications will be assessed on a case by case basis.

If you are hiring out horses and fit this criteria you require a licence. You can view the guidance and apply for a licence here.

Keeping or training animals for exhibition

The definition of keeping or training animals for exhibition is: Keeping or training animals for exhibition in the course of a business for educational or entertainment purposes - 

(a) to any audience attending in person, or
(b) by the recording of visual images of them by any form of technology that enables the display of such images.

Examples of keeping or training animals for exhibition that fit this criteria are:

  • businesses which keep animals for exhibition, either for entertainment or educational purposes. This includes mobile animal exhibits that visit schools, weddings, private parties, fairs and other events where an audience is present.
  • pony parties where the ponies are not ridden.
  • businesses which keep animals for exhibition via electronic media, for example, animals used in films or TV.
  • businesses which train animals for exhibition, either to an audience or via electronic media.
  • exhibiting domestic animals in a circus.
  • any business based outside of England that brings in an animal for exhibition. These businesses must apply to the first authority in which they will be performing or where the animals are to be kept for the duration of their stay.

Examples of keeping or training animals for exhibition that do not fit this criteria are:

  • agents who organise for the exhibition of animals, but do not own them or train them themselves and thus have limited or no contact with the animals. Agents who arrange for the supply of animals for an exhibit should ensure all keepers and trainers are licensed and comply with the Regulations.
  • animal shows where animals are exhibited (e.g.. Crufts, animal trade shows). If individual participants are in the business of exhibiting animals and receive a fee for doing so, they will need to have a licence, but the show itself does not require a licence as it is not responsible for the animals exhibited.
  • training or exhibiting animals for military or police purposes (i.e.. training police dogs, demonstrations of police/military dogs at fairs).
  • registered charities that exhibit animals as part of their charitable work, unless such registered charities are in practice running this element of their operations as a commercial activity.
  • training or exhibiting animals for sporting purposes, for example, horse racing and greyhound racing.
  • exhibiting wild animals within a licensed circus.
  • licensed zoos.

These lists are not exhaustive and applications will be assessed on a case by case basis.

If you are keeping or training animals for exhibition and fit this criteria you require a licence. You can view the guidance and apply for a licence here.

Eligibility criteria

You may not apply for a licence if you:

  • have at any time held a licence which was revoked under regulation 15 of these Regulations
  • have at any time held a licence which was revoked under regulation 17 of the Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014(a)
  • have at any time held a licence which was revoked under regulation 13 of the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012(b)
  • are disqualified under section 33 of the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011(c)
  • have at any time held a licence which was revoked under regulation 12 of the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010(d)
  • are disqualified under section 34 of the Act
  • are disqualified under section 40(1) and (2) of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006(e)
  • are disqualified under section 4(1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991(a)
  • are disqualified under Article 33A of the Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983(b)
  • are disqualified under section 6(2) of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976(c) from keeping a dangerous wild animal
  • are disqualified under section 3(3) of the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973(d) from keeping a breeding establishment for dogs
  • are disqualified under section 4(3) of the Riding Establishments Act 1964(e) from keeping a riding establishment
  • are disqualified under section 3(3) of the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963(f) from keeping a boarding establishment for animals
  • are disqualified under section 5(3) of the Pet Animals Act 1951(g) from keeping a pet shop
  • are disqualified under section 1(1) of the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954(h) from having custody of an animal
  • are disqualified under section 4(2) of the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925(i)
  • are disqualified under section 3 of the Protection of Animals Act 1911(j) from the ownership of an animal

Animal Licensing Policy

Please find the Animal Licensing Policy below in the attachments.

Contact Us

If you have read this page and are still unsure as to whether your business requires a licence, please complete the form attached below and email it to licensing@north-herts.gov.uk

Please try and complete the form with as much details as possible, one of our officers will assess the information provided and inform you if you need a licence or not.

Please note that we will respond to your request within 10 working days of you emailing it to us.

Attachments