Boarding for cats and dogs

On 1st October 2018, the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (external link) came into force. This legislation has changed the way animal boarding is licensed and regulated.

The new licence will be referred to as an ‘Animal Activity Licence’. In order to obtain a licence, you need to ensure that you meet the specific licence conditions for commercial boarding establishments.

Do I need a licence?

In scope criteria

Activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria are subject to licensing:

  • Businesses which provide accommodation for other people’s cats and dogs, where the provision of that accommodation is part or solely the activity of the business.
  • Where the overnight accommodation for dogs is in a home environment, this would fall under the scope of Home Boarding for dogs.
  • Where a business provides daytime accommodation for dogs away from the dogs normal place of residence and does not keep them overnight, this would fall under the scope of Day Care for dogs.
  • Businesses which arrange for the provision of accommodation for other people’s cat and dogs, for example, businesses which connect pet owners with people willing to look after their animals for no fee (just minor expenses). The accommodation provided in these circumstances must meet the conditions set by the legislation (see below), and it is the responsibility of the business to ensure that this is the case.

The business must provide (and keep updated) a list of their associated premises. This applies regardless of whether the business is arranging for dog boarding in kennels, cat boarding, home boarding or dog day care.

  • Businesses which provide overnight accommodation for cats in purpose built cattery units.
  • Home boarding of cats, where the cats are kept in purpose built cattery units and not in the domestic home.

Business test

The Regulations specify two example business tests to be considered when determining whether an activity is considered commercial, and therefore within scope. These are, whether the operator:

  • Makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit, or
  • Earns any commission or fee from the activity.

Out of scope criteria

Activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria are not subject to licensing:

  • Businesses where accommodation is provided for other people’s cats and dogs, but where the provision of that accommodation is not the purpose of that business, for example, veterinary practices where the accommodation provided is part of the treatment of the animal.
  • Home boarding of cats within a domestic setting is not permitted.
  • Businesses that look after the cat within its normal place of residence (i.e. cat sitters).

Fees and charges

The new legislation has resulted in changes to the animal activity licence fee structure.

These fees have been set in accordance with this legislation.

Making an application

The application form has been produced by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The Licensing Team
PO Box 100

Please note: The appropriate fee should always be paid online before submitting the application.


We are required to carry out an inspection of all premises where licensable activities take place before an application can be determined. A ratings system has also been introduced where you will be given a rating dependant on a specified criteria.

Guidance and conditions

The general conditions set by the legislation are as follows, and also contain helpful guidance on complying with these conditions

Existing licence holders

Licences held under the current system for animal boarding establishments will continue until the expiry date shown on the licence. Prior to the expiry date of this licence, existing licence holders need to make an application for a licence under the new regulations and comply with the new requirements.

If you are the holder of an existing licence or registration you are advised to familiarise yourself with the new licence conditions, to ensure you are able to comply with these before making an application for a new licence.

Public register

We maintain a public register of all the businesses which hold an animal activity licence, a copy of which is available below. This will be updated on a regular basis.


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