The Dog Business

Dog-care licensing

The law
The law requires anyone who operates a business of providing accommodation or day care for other people’s dogs to hold and display a licence granted by the local authority.

This includes holiday care, overnight stays or doggy day-care.

The law also requires providers of commercial day-care to be licensed.

In Scotland and Wales dog boarding and day care is governed by the Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1963. In England, on October 2018, The Animal Activities Licensing Regulations 2018 was introduced, updating the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

If you are operating without a licence, the punishments are clearly set out. You can be prosecuted and sentenced to up to three months in prison and fined up to £500 for each person, plus possible costs and victim surcharges.

Pet owners looking to board or care for their pet should ensure the establishment is licenced as this will ensure the safety and welfare of their pet is maintained at all times.

Occasional ‘pet sitters’, earning less than a £1,000/year are allowed, but in the first 3 months of 2019, an estimated 600+ pet sitters stopped providing services under the new regulations, because they were exceeding this threshold. In reality they were committing a criminal offence and local authorities have begun to clamp down and prosecute such offenders.

Getting a licence
Getting a licence involves filling in an application form, paying a fee and having your home/venue inspected. Licences have conditions attached including how your care for the dogs and provide for their needs, how many dogs you can care for and a requirement to keep a record of the animals in your care.

As licences are issued by local authorities rather than central government, there is some variation in the process and a frustrating variation in local authority interpretation and enforcement of the regulations, but this should lessen over time as the new framework becomes better understood.

What happens at inspections?
Usually the initial inspection is carried out by a veterinary surgeon and possibly an officer from the council. Renewal inspections may just be a council officer; depending on the council, this maybe a dog warden, environmental health officer or member of the licensing team.

The inspector will look at your establishment to see if it conforms with the licensing guidelines and ask questions. They will want to understand your policies, processes, practices and evidence them. They are looking to see if your establishment and staff will provide a safe and suitable environment for dogs.

How long will it take to get a licence?
This depends on your council. Some are very quick and you can apply, have your inspection and be granted a licence within 10 days, about a month is average though. 10 weeks is not unheard of. Being inspected and actually receiving feedback and the licensing documentation can take 2 months.

It will take longer if the council find any issues you need to rectify before they can issue a licence, so make sure you are aware of the boarding conditions and prepare your establishment, documentation and records ready for inspection.

Can I start my business whilst I wait for my licence?
Normally you will not be allowed to start until your application is complete. And legally, it is a criminal offence to provide such services without the necessary licence. However, some councils apply ‘tacit consent’ if you’ve not been refused a licence within a certain period after applying.

Ask your council whether you are able to start advertising and taking bookings as long as you don’t actually start taking care of dogs until you have your licence – though you should make anyone booking aware of your circumstances and not take payment in advance.

How long does a licence last?
Licences need to be renewed annually. Most councils issue licences from 1st January to 31st December for ease of administration, although you can apply at any time and your licence will run for the remainder of the year. In England, establishments that satisfy the licensing conditions can be licensed for 1,2 or 3 years, at the discretion of the local authority however, random inspections can take place. In Scotland and Wales, a dog boarding or dog day care licence is granted for up to one year and always expires at the end of December in the year it was granted. The Animal Activities Licensing Regulations (October 2018), has not yet been brought into effect in Scotland and Wales.

The new legislation doesn’t require you to hold a licence to offer dog walking services, or to care for dogs in their owners’ home.

Additionally, you may not require a licence if you are not operating commercially. DEFRA gives the following guidance when defining commercial operations: “The Government announced in Budget 2016 a new allowance of £1,000 for trading income from April 2017. Anyone falling under this threshold would not need to be considered in the context of determining whether they are a business.” But… this has caused confusion and frustration in the dog-care community

DEFRA say:

“The local authority inspectors should take into account all of the elements and weigh them against each other before reaching a decision as to whether an activity falls within the scope of the regulations.”

This means that your local authority makes the final decision regarding whether you need a licence or not.
The £1000 that is being referred to is your tax-free allowance for property or trading income, which begins each year on 1st April.

Trading income is separate to any income that you earn from being employed, receiving a pension or claiming benefits. It is an allowance that is available for people who are earning an income through self-employed status and through their hobbies (known as ‘casual earnings’). Everyone, whether self-employed or employed or receiving a pension or benefits has this allowance.

Self-employed people must add together all their annual earnings from any channel (including casual earnings) and remain under the £1000 threshold to utilize this allowance. There are also restrictions on using the trading income allowance if you own your own business or are connected to a company or partnership.

Those employed, receiving pensions or benefits (assuming that they are not also self-employed) must add together all their casual earnings and remain under the £1000 threshold to utilize this allowance.

Trading income is about Income, Turnover or Earnings. If you wish to deduct your expenses from your gross income, you cannot use the trading income allowance. If you wish to deduct your expenses or costs from your income, the trading allowance is not applicable and you must report your earnings to HMRC in the usual manner.

The £1000 referred to in the DEFRA guidance document is this allowance.

  • If you are not eligible for this allowance, then you need a home boarding licence.
  • If your self-employed total earnings exceed £1000 for any type of work, you need a home boarding licence.
  • If your casual earnings through any channel exceed £1,000, you need a home boarding licence.
  • If you self-employed earnings plus your casual earnings exceed £1,000, you need a home boarding licence.
  • Does this mean a couple get £1,000 each? Ohhhh enough!


The dog business


Tel: 0203 962 20020

MyWaggyTails Business

Registered address: PolkaDot Consulting Limited, 3rd Floor, 86-90 Paul Street, London EC2A 4NE

MyWaggyTails is fully insured. Licensed for Home Boarding and Day-Care by South Oxfordshire Council – Licence Number: 20174

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