If you’re thinking about starting up a dog boarding business, apart from putting in place suitable accommodation and arrangements to care for other people’s beloved pets, you will also need a licence from your local council. This is to help ensure the health and welfare of any animals in someone else’s care when operating for profit, requiring the person responsible for running that business to meet and maintain high standards.
The following guide to the law on dog boarding looks specifically at the licensing requirements, from who needs to obtain a dog boarding licence and the conditions that must be met, to how you can check if another business has a valid licence in place.
What is a dog boarding licence?
The law in the UK is strict, requiring dog boarding businesses to meet various health and welfare conditions to obtain and retain a licence. A dog boarding licence is the regulatory permission needed to be able to run a boarding kennel, a dog boarding business in your home or a dog day care business. If you provide or arrange for boarding for dogs in England, you must contact your local council and make an application pursuant to the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, although the regulations on dog boarding can differ in constituent parts of the UK.
Guidance relating to dog boarding in England issued by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs can be found online at GOV.UK. For anyone thinking about starting a business in dog boarding, they should read the DEFRA guidance in conjunction with the 2018 Regulations. You may also want to seek expert advice when applying for a licence.
Who needs a dog boarding licence?
You will need a licence if you want to provide or arrange for boarding for dogs in England. This essentially includes any circumstances in which you will be running a dog boarding business, even if you are only looking after a small number of dogs in your own home.
In summary, a dog boarding licence will be needed for any of the following activities:
- providing or arranging boarding in kennels for dogs on a commercial basis
- providing or arranging home boarding for dogs on a commercial basis
- providing or arranging day care for dogs on a commercial basis.
Essentially, the licensable activity of dog boarding is restricted to businesses or those operating on a commercial basis. The 2018 Regulations set out two example business tests to be considered when determining whether an activity is considered commercial, and thus within the scope of the licensing regime in this context. These include whether you will be making any sale by, or otherwise carrying on, the activity of dog boarding with a view to making a profit, or you will be earning any commission or fee from this activity.
Dog boarding licence requirements
To successfully obtain a dog boarding licence, you must prove that you can meet the requisite licence requirements. These include showing that the dogs will be:
- kept in suitable accommodation
- given adequate food and drink, together with adequate bedding
- visited and also exercised on a regular basis
- protected from pain, suffering, injury and/or disease
- protected in case of any emergency, for example, a fire
- looked after only by people trained to care for dogs.
The council will want to inspect the dog boarding premises before making a decision as to whether or not to grant a licence, and will also conduct additional inspections post-grant.
Anyone who has committed an animal welfare offence, or been banned from boarding cats or dogs, from breeding dogs, from keeping or training animals for exhibition, from hiring out horses or from selling pets will not be granted a licence and should not apply.
In the event of any uncertainty as to the requirements for a dog boarding licence, or the restrictions on applying, enquiries should be made with your local council. Councils also have plenty of information set out on their websites in relation to dog boarding licensing.
How to retain your dog boarding licence
There are both general and specific licence conditions attached to a dog boarding licence, where information on how to meet each required standard is set out in detail within the online DEFRA guidance. However, there is separate guidance depending on the type of proposed arrangements for boarding dogs, including:
- guidance notes for conditions for providing boarding in kennels for dogs
- guidance notes for conditions for providing home boarding for dogs
- guidance notes for conditions for providing day care for dogs.
In each of these guides, the following general conditions will be taken into account:
- Licence display
- Use, number and type of dog
- Suitable environment
- Suitable diet
- Monitoring of behaviour and training of dogs
- Dog handling and interactions
- Protection from pain, suffering, injury and/or disease
There are also various specific conditions in the context of the type of dog boarding in question, which the council inspector will take into account when having regard to whether an applicant can meet and maintain the requisite conditions:
Boarding in kennels for dogs
The following specific conditions will be taken into account by the council inspector: a suitable environment; monitoring of behaviour and training; record-keeping; and protection from pain, injury, suffering and/or disease.
Home boarding for dogs
The following specific conditions will be taken into account by the council: the home where the dog will be housed; a suitable environment; a suitable diet; monitoring of behaviour and training; housing with, or apart from, other dogs; record-keeping; and protection from pain, injury, suffering and/or disease.
Daycare for dogs
The following specific conditions will be taken into account: no overnight stay, where a dog must not be kept on the premises overnight; a suitable environment; a suitable diet; monitoring of behaviour and training; housing apart from other dogs; record-keeping; and protection from pain, injury, suffering and/or disease.
How long does a dog boarding licence last?
The local council will decide the length of your licence. A dog boarding licence can be valid for either 1, 2 or 3 years although, shortly prior to expiry, this can be renewed. At this stage, a fresh application will need to be made, and the council may conduct a further inspection, but provided all the conditions of the licence have been met during its validity, the council is likely to grant a renewal of the licence for a further appropriate period.
When granting a dog boarding licence the council will expect you to meet, and to be able to maintain, the minimum standards required under the 2018 Regulations and the DEFRA guidance. However, when determining the length of your licence, the council will also look at the extent to which you have met the higher standards set out in the guidance. This could include, for example, where staffing levels are one full-time equivalent attendant per 15 dogs kept in the context of boarding in kennels for dogs, or where staffing levels will be one full-time equivalent attendant per 8 dogs kept in the context of dog day care. In all types of licensed dog boarding, it could also include where there is a clear plan setting out two walks per dog each day for a minimum of 20 minutes each.
It is not a mandatory requirement to meet these higher standards. However, if you achieve all of the ‘required higher standards’, together with at least 50% of the ‘optional higher standards’, you will be granted a longer licence from the outset for your higher star rating.
How much is a dog boarding licence?
The cost of applying for a dog boarding licence can vary, depending on the local council to whom an application will need to be made. The fees can also vary depending on the type of dog boarding. For Manchester City Council, for example, the fees are currently as follows:
- Boarding dogs (kennels): £181
- Home boarding dogs: £153
- Dog daycare: £125
There will also be the following additional fee on the successful grant of a licence, this time depending on both the type and length of the dog boarding licence granted:
- Boarding dogs (kennels): 1 year £42, 2 years £209 and 3 years £237
- Home boarding dogs: 1 year £42, 2 years £182 and 3 years £209
- Dog daycare: 1 year £42, 2 years £154 and 3 years £182
The total fees, provided a dog boarding licence is granted, would therefore be:
- Boarding dogs (kennels): 1 year £223, 2 years £390 and 3 years £418
- Home boarding dogs: 1 year £195, 2 years £335 and 3 years £362
- Dog daycare: 1 year £167, 2 years £279 and 3 years £307
How to apply for a dog boarding licence
When applying for a dog boarding licence, the applicant should use the relevant form as set out on their local council’s website. This must be completed accurately and in full. Depending on your location, it may be possible to apply online, whilst other councils will require you to download and print off your form, and to send this by post.
A copy of the submitted application may be sent to the RSPCA and any other interested parties for comment, although any comments should be received within 28 days of the application being received by the council. Before any licence is granted, the council will also arrange for inspection of the premises where the dog boarding will take place, where the council inspector may be accompanied by a qualified vet.
When deciding the application, the council will take into account the outcome of its inspection, together with any comments from interested parties, and will only grant a licence if it is satisfied that the licence conditions will be met and that the appropriate fee has been paid. If an application to grant a dog boarding licence is refused by the council, or an application for a renewal of a licence is rejected, there is a right of appeal.
Penalties for failing to have a dog boarding licence
Given the high standards required to care for animals in the UK, and be responsible for their health and welfare, especially when doing so for profit, the penalties for breaking the law can be severe. You could be liable to an unlimited fine and/or be sent to prison for 6 months if you unlawfully provide or arrange boarding for dogs without a licence.
You can also be heavily penalised for breaching the conditions of any licence obtained, and may be banned from running an animal boarding establishment. Additionally, the council will take a very dim view of anyone trying to hinder or delay an inspection, or failing to cooperate, where this, of itself, could result in your dog boarding licence being revoked.
However, if the council would like to re-inspect your premises and the inspection does not meet the conditions required, you will often be issued with a compliance notice and a revisit will be carried out before any other action is taken against you.
For anyone already operating a dog boarding business without a licence, legal advice should be sought immediately. To be able to continue operating, you will also need to contact the local council, although this does not necessarily mean that you will be instantly prosecuted. However, it is possible that the council will require you to stop boarding whilst they assess any application from you for a dog boarding licence.
How to check if someone has a dog boarding licence
A licensed dog boarding business is obliged to display their licence on their premises. However, you can also check the public register to see if a business is properly licensed, or by sending the name and address of the boarding establishment to your local council’s licensing team. Each council should maintain a public register of all the businesses which hold an animal activity licence in your area, setting out their details and licence rating.
Dog boarding licence FAQs
Do you need a license to board dogs in your home?
You will need a boarding licence from the council to provide home boarding for dogs for profit. You will also need a licence for boarding in kennels for dogs and for providing day care for dogs on a commercial basis.
Do you need a licence to board dogs UK?
A council licence is required to board dogs, although the requirements can differ depending on which part of the UK you plan to run your business. Any failure to obtain a licence can result in a fine or even imprisonment.
Do you need a licence to run a boarding kennels?
To run boarding kennels for either cats or dogs, you will need what is known as an animal activities licence. You will need to apply to your local council, and to meet and maintain various health and welfare conditions.
How do I get my dog boarding license UK?
To obtain a boarding licence, you will need to apply to your local council under the regulations for the part of the UK where your business is based, for example, Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.