Animal Welfare Licence

If you have a business that involves animals you may need a licence.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 came into effect on 1 October 2018, and introduced an updated licensing system in England for five activities involving animals:

Selling animals as pets

  • 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.

Providing for, or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs

  • 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 by:
    • providing boarding for cats;
    • Providing boarding in kennels for dogs;
    • providing home boarding for dogs;
    • providing day care for dogs.

Hiring out horses for riding or instruction in riding

  • hiring out horses in the course of a business for either riding, instruction in riding, or both.

Dog breeding

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

Keeping or training animals for exhibition

  • keeping or training animals for exhibition in the course of a business for educational or entertainment purposes, either to any audience attending in person, or by the recording of visual images of them by any form of technology, or both.

The 2018 Regulation has also introduced the following:

  • a one licence system, whereby each of the activities underlined above is considered to be a licensable activity, and an operator may apply for multiple licensable activities on the one licence.
  • a new "Star Rating" scheme, ranging from one to five stars, assessed according to risk and welfare standards at the premises.
  • licence periods of up to three years, linked to the star rating given to the premises.

Existing licence holders, and anyone planning to apply for a new licence should read the 2018 Regulation, and the statutory guidance notes to fully understand the obligations and duties under the new Regulations. To assist the trade, all of these documents are available via the links further down this page.


The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

Defra Guidance

Defra are responsible for creating the new regulation via powers given to them by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. They have provided statutory guidance that the Licensing Authority must have regard to. Each licensable activity has its own specific guidance, and any person wishing to conduct that licensable activity must be able to comply with the minimum standards contained within the relevant document. The links below take you to the updated guidance which came into force on the 1 February 2022, replacing all guidance documents issued previously. 

Defra have also provided procedural guidance for licensing officers. This is provided on the link below, and illustrates how the licensing authority will administer and enforce the new regulations.

Animal Welfare Licensing Policy

East Cambridgeshire District Council has produced an animal licensing policy to assist all parties. 

Applying for a new licence

Once you have read through the guidance relevant to your chosen activity or activities, and the Regulations, you will need to submit your application form, and pay the application fee and relevant inspection fee, which is determined by the size or type of establishment. Due to the fact that animal welfare may be undermined if your premises does not have suitable planning permission, proof of suitable planning permission must be provided at the time of application. Once you are happy that you have prepared your premises ready for inspection, you will need to contact the licensing authority. Additional inspections prior to the official rating inspection can be booked once an application has been submitted, however, this will incur an additional inspection fee charge. 

Veterinarian Inspection

If you are applying for a new dog breeding licence, or if you are applying for a new or the renewal of a horse hiring activity licence, you will require a veterinarian inspection. In accordance with the guidance issued under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals)(England) Regulations 2018, the Council must appoint the veterinarian who conducts the inspection of the premises prior to the inspection taking place. Due to this it is essential to receive confirmation of veterinarian appointment from the Licensing Authority prior to any inspection commencing. It is also essential that the veterinarian inspection is booked to take place at the same time as the visit by the Licensing Authority officer. The veterinarian fees must be settled directly with the veterinary practice prior to the inspection taking place.

Before applying your attention is drawn to our privacy and data retention policy (PDF).

Renewing an existing licence

All existing licensing holders will be supplied a renewal notice no less than three months prior to the expiry date of their licence. In order to guarantee licence continuation whilst the renewal process takes place, licence holders must submit a valid application no less than ten weeks prior to the expiry date of their licence. Although called a renewal, the process is almost identical to applying for a new licence. The only difference being the fact that a dog breeding establishment does not have to have a veterinarian inspection upon renewal. The renewal notice supplied will provide detailed information regarding the renewal process.

Rights of appeal

A right of appeal exists if your application is refused, or your licence is revoked. Appeals are heard by the First Tier Tribunal. 

An internal appeals system exists if you do not agree with the star rating. Ultimately, if you do not agree with the rating awarded by the Licensing Authority having followed the appeal procedure, you may seek judicial review of the decision, or submit a formal complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.