I am thinking of opening a pet shop. Are there any special requirements I should be aware of?

The requirement to hold a licence

Where a person wishes to “keep a pet shop” he must obtain a licence from his local authority.

What is the definition of the keeping of a pet shop?

The keeping of a pet shop is defined by the Pet Animals Act 1951 and means the carrying on at premises of any nature, including a private dwelling, of a business of selling animals as pets, and the keeping of animals in any such premises with a view to their being sold in the course of such a business, whether by the keeper or any other person.

A person who only keeps or sells pedigree animals bred by him or the offspring of his pets is not deemed to keep a pet shop. A local authority may direct that a particular breeder, who merely sells as pets animals which he acquired for show or breeding purposes but were found not to be suitable or needed for such purposes, is not deemed to keep a pet shop.

What matters will a local authority take into account when deciding to grant a licence?

When deciding whether to grant a licence the local authority will take into account the suitability of the accommodation and the adequacy of food and drink. The local authority will want to ensure that the animals will be visited as is necessary and that reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent the spread of disease and to guard against fire or other emergencies. Where mammals are to be sold the local authority will also want to ensure that they will not be sold at too early an age.

Conditions of a licence

  • Any licence granted may be subject to conditions.
  • If a person wishes to appeal against any conditions of a licence then they may make an appeal to the Magistrates’ Court.
  • Where a person contravenes a condition of a licence they may be fined and/or imprisoned. The licence may also be cancelled by the local authority and the holder may be disqualified by a Court from keeping a pet shop for such period as the Court thinks fit.

How long does a licence last for?

Any licence granted will, unless cancelled in the intervening period, need to be renewed on a yearly basis.

If a licence is refused can I appeal?

If a licence is refused an appeal can be made to the Magistrates’ Court.

What are the consequences of failing to obtain a licence?

If a person is required to obtain a licence and he fails to do so he may be fined and/or imprisoned.

Once I have obtained a licence will I be able to sell animals anywhere?

It is a criminal offence, under the Pet Animals Act 1951, to sell pet animals in a street, public place or at a market.

Are there any other specific requirements I should be aware of?

Sale of pets to persons under the age of 16 years

It is a criminal offence, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, to sell an animal to a person whom the seller has reasonable grounds to believe to be under the age of 16 years.

Animal welfare

A number of criminal offences were created by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in order to prevent harm to animals and to promote the welfare of animals. Where such an offence is committed the Court may cancel a licence to keep a pet shop, disqualify a person from keeping a pet shop, fine a person and in some cases, order the imprisonment of a person.

Inspections by local authorities and vets

A local authority has the power to inspect a pet shop or authorise a veterinary surgeon or practitioner to carry out an inspection on its behalf. Wilful obstruction of such an inspector is punishable with a fine.