The Animal Welfare Licensing Updates

9 October 2018

In October 2018, the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations came into place, updating legislation which had been in place for well over half a century. Five licensing activities involving animals were impacted by the new legislation: selling animals as pets, providing for or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs, dog breeding, hiring out horses and keeping or training animals for exhibition.

This topic was covered in a ‘Big Issue’ stream at the BSAVA Congress 2018, exploring the effects of changes on businesses and veterinary professionals. In effect, four different types of establishment are affected by the legislation including pet shops and establishments that undertake dog breeding, animal boarding and riding activities. Legislation around registration requirements for performing animals will be replaced by a licensing scheme.

The legislation will have far-reaching effect given there are approximately 2,300 licensed pet shops, 650 licensed dog breeders, 1,800 licensed riding establishments and 6,300 licensed animal boarding establishments in England. These licences combined comprise the fourth largest group of business licences issued by local authorities. The high public interest in animal welfare is recognised by the Prime Minister and Defra Ministers, and there is equally a strong public expectation that animal welfare standards should be robustly enforced by local authorities.

Regulations had fallen out of date since advancements in the internet and new norms of living standards progressed. To support the drive to improve animal welfare, legislative changes were needed to reflect twenty first century society and modern business models. There had been a lack of consistency in enforcement of standards throughout the country. To hold and retain a licence, businesses were expected to meet minimum animal welfare standards as outlined in non-statutory Guidance used by local authorities. However, evidence suggested that less than one third of local authorities used this guidance. Pressure on local authority resources meant a lack of suitably trained, competent and experienced staff and the potential loss of experienced inspectors.

During 2015/16 a full public consultation was held on the review of animal establishments licensing for England, following a collaboration between Defra, the Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG), and key charities, welfare organisations, enforcement authorities, industry and veterinary representatives, including BSAVA. The BSAVA received thanks for their unstinting and valuable input and the Group overall was thanked by Lord Gardiner for their huge achievement in such a short and challenging timescale

A great amount of effort and resource was input from BSAVA Policy and Officers, so it’s worth reflecting on these changes and what they mean in practical terms for businesses and veterinary practitioners.

Members of the BSAVA can read the full article outlining the Animal Welfare Licensing Update in the latest edition of Companion.