Selling animals as pets

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 certain activities involving animals is licensed and regulated. This includes selling animals as pets.

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 selling animals as pets.

Do I need a licence?

In scope criteria

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

  • The import, distribution and sale of animals by a business.
  • Businesses registered with Companies House.
  • Businesses or individuals operating from domestic premises for commercial purposes (it should be noted that many may not be listed with Companies House).
  • Premises open to members of the public or to other businesses where animals are available for purchase.

The following may assist with the consideration of the criteria listed above:

  • The import, distribution and sale of animals by means of a fixed fee.
  • The purchase of animals with the express intent to sell them on.
  • Where animals are bought and then re-advertised for sale or sold within a short period of time.
  • The number, frequency and/or volume of sales - systematic and repeated transactions using the same means of advertising are likely to indicate a commercial activity.
  • High volumes of animals sold or advertised for sale or high number of litters or progeny could indicate a business.
  • Low volumes of animals sold or advertised could indicate a business where high sales prices or large profit margins are involved.
  • High range and variability in the animals traded. A wide variety of species or taxa being traded could indicate the commercial nature of the activity.
  • High numbers of advertisements of animals for sale, including on classified websites, could indicate commercial behaviour, even where there is no actual sale taking place via the internet. This could be high numbers of advertisements at any one time or over a short period of time, and/or regularly
  • Advertising through a variety of sites, forums or media could indicate a commercial activity.

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:

  • The infrequent sale of a small number of surplus offspring/excess stock by a private individual who breeds animals as a hobby, for pleasure, exhibition for prize, or for education, study or scientific advancement. For low value species that may produce large numbers of excess stock, consideration should be given to the value of the stock and the likelihood that the seller is making a profit.
  • Organised events where people meet to sell surplus animals they have bred, or animals that are surplus to their requirements, whether or not this is open to the public. Selling pet animals as a business from a market or stall is prohibited under Section 2 of the Pet Animals Act 1951.
  • Aquacultural Production Businesses that are authorised under regulation 5(1) of the Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009, and that are inspected by the Fish Health Inspectorate.

The following may assist consideration of the criteria listed above:

  • The number, frequency and/or volume of sales - irregular transactions, low and/or irregular numbers of adverts/sales or low numbers/values of animals sold are likely to indicate the activity is not commercial in its nature.
  • Where an individual can demonstrate the activity is undertaken as a hobby or for education or scientific advancement, and that they are only selling surplus stock, without making a profit. This could be demonstrated by producing evidence such as:
    • Reports or studies prepared by the individual in relation to the species kept, including self-published, published for scientific journals, published in the pet trade or hobby media, or demonstrable contributions to conservation projects.
    • Competition entry forms for the animals kept by the individual.
    • Registered membership of a club or society relevant to the animals kept by the individual.

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 pet shops 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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