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Animal Welfare and Animal Activities Licensing

Update: Covid-19, follow this link for advice for animal-related businesses.

Borough Council officers can use a variety of powers under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Primarily we use them in connection with animal activity licensing in accordance with The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.  A "licensable activity" means one of five activities involving animals:

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has published guidance notes and conditions.

We also issue licences to people who keep dangerous and wild animals or wish to operate zoos.

Click here to apply for an Animal Activities Licence

Animal Activity Licensing

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 replace a number of previous Acts.

  • They set new minimum standards, and encourage licence holders to achieve a newly defined higher standard.  The standards are detailed in a number of national guides, which licence holders and local authorities must follow.  Councils can no longer set either own conditions or standards.
  • They require businesses to be scored to establish whether they 'low risk'  or 'high risk' and then graded to establish whether they have 'minor failing', meet the 'minimum standards' required by the regulations or have achieved the 'higher standards' as laid down in the guidance. A star grading of one to five stars will be applied to a business to reflect their level of risk and the animal welfare standards that they have adopted.
  • All business must comply with the general requirements which cover all activities, and specific conditions which relate to the activity they operate.
  • Where two or more activities take place at the same premises / under the control of the same person (for example dog boarding and dog breeding), the operator must comply with each set of specific conditions which apply.  The council will inspect each activity and assess it separately.  One licence will be granted which includes all the activities undertaken, but will have one grading (the lowest) for the business as a whole.
  • Licences can be applied for (and run) from any time of the year.  The length of a licence will depend on its star rating.  1 and 2 star rated business will hold a one year licence and will be checked at least every six months.  3 and 4 star rated businesses will receive a license for two years with a minimum of one unannounced check. High performing 5 star businesses will be licensed for three years.
  • They require more written procedures (standard operating procedures)
  • They clarify where a licence is needed and is not needed - this is referred to as 'in scope' and 'out of scope'

Licence holders will be required to display their licence and details of their grading.  In some cases they will need to include details of their licence in any advert they place.  Details of licences issued will appear on our website.

Follow this link for a list of sites which hold a current Borough Council licence.

We have a page for each licensable activity with the conditions which apply, application forms and inspection checklists.

We strongly recommend that licence holders / prospective licence holders carefully read the conditions and guidance.  The checklist can help you self assess your business to see how it will be graded, how may stars it would achieve and how often you will need to renew your licence.

The Five Needs

Five key needs have been established for animals.  These update the 'five freedoms' you may still see referred to elsewhere. When our duties involve animals, we aim to ensure that we respect animals' "five needs" -

  1. Need for a suitable environment
  2. Need for a suitable diet
  3. Need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns (such as exercise)
  4. Need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  5. Need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

If you have concerns about the welfare of domestic pets, please contact the RSPCA (External Link). If your concern is for a farm animal, please contact Staffordshire County Council's Animal Health Team  - (External Link)

If you are concerned about an animal's welfare in a licensed premises, contact us 

We will tell you the reference number of your report, which you should quote if you contact us again about this matter.

What we do:

  • Where appropriate we will investigate any complaints
  • We will attempt to resolve any problems through help, support and advice
  • Where enforcement is appropriate, we will take action or work with partners to ensure that action is taken without unreasonable delay
  • If the complaint is better investigated by another agency – such as Staffordshire County Council or the RSPCA – we will advise you further.

Fairness and confidentiality

The Council investigates complaints as an independent body. Both parties are our clients and we have a duty to treat both fairly, respecting privacy and, where appropriate, confidentiality. We will not advise you of the discussions we have had with other parties.

Information that you provide will be used and stored in accordance with General Data protection Regulations (GDPR). Follow this link for more information 

Please note: Local authorities are obliged to provide details of licences in force and associated fees to the Secretary of State.  The council will maintain a list of licenced business and their associated ratings on its website.


Frequently asked questions

Do our officers become involved in every animal welfare case?

Currently we focus our efforts on cases involving domestic dogs and complaints about licensed animal premises such as dog breeders, kennels, catteries and pet shops. In the first instance we recommend that you contact the RSPCA by calling 0300 1234 999.

The guidance does not answer my question - is there any further information you can offer?

The animal activities licensing regulations is relatively new and untested.  There is limited information published by DEFRA, but more expected.  In addition to the specific activity guides (see separate pages) officers currently have 'Procedural guidance notes for local authorities'  [PDF] (687KB), which explain more about applications, inspections, licences and any complaints should be administered.  Older model standards no longer apply.


Further information

Pet Industry Federation: Animal Activities Licensing (external link)

Canine & Feline Sector Group: Legislation and Guidance (external link)


Last updated 9 July 2021

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