Consultation on the review of animal establishments licensing in England

Closed 12 Mar 2016

Opened 20 Dec 2015


Local authorities are required by law to issue licences for specific animal-related establishments and activities, with the aim of maintaining good standards of animal welfare. There is a registration requirement for performing animals, and licensing systems for pet shops, animal boarding, riding establishments and dog breeding.

We estimate that 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 comprise the fourth largest group of business licences issued by local authorities, after premises, taxi, and gambling licences.

There is a strong public expectation that animal welfare standards will be robustly enforced by local authorities. However, the laws, and their specific requirements, are often decades old, and difficult to adapt to the changing types of animal-related businesses, and to new standards of good practice in animal welfare. Moreover, the current process is complex and burdensome for both businesses and local authorities. For instance, primary legislation limits licences to a calendar-year framework, arbitrarily focussing inspections at the end of the year, and forcing some businesses with multiple functions to have as many as three separate licences.

As part of its commitment to Better Regulation, Defra is conducting a cross-cutting review of licences and permits. The Government is committed to improving the effectiveness of existing regulation whilst lifting the regulatory burdens on businesses to support growth. This consultation sits within that wider review and aims to relieve the administrative burden on local authorities, simplify the application and inspection process for businesses, as well as maintain and improve existing animal welfare standards by modernising the current animal licensing system in England.

Why your views matter

This consultation seeks views on a number of proposed changes to the animal establishment licensing system. 

We are proposing to introduce new secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This would introduce a single ‘Animal Establishment Licence’ for animal boarding establishments, pet shops, riding establishments, and dog breeding. We want to know what you think about these proposed changes.

 The consultation will run from the 20th December 2015 until the 12th March 2016.

What happens next

This consultation is an opportunity for all interested parties to scrutinise and comment on our proposals, and, if needed, supply further evidence.

After the consultation has concluded we will publish a summary of the responses received. This will inform the final regulations we will lay before Parliament.  


  • Charities/Voluntary Organisations
  • Animal welfare campaigners
  • Vets
  • Local Authorities
  • Business/Private Sector
  • SME businesses
  • Leisure industry
  • Trading Standards Officers


  • Animals
  • Animal welfare
  • Pets
  • Horses