I want to open a pet shop - are there any special requirements to be aware of?

What is the ‘keeping of a pet shop’?

Under the Pet Animals Act 1951 (PAA 1951), the ‘keeping of a pet shop’ 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 anyone else.

If you only keep or sell pedigree animals bred by you or the offspring of your pets, you are not deemed to keep a pet shop. A local authority may direct that a particular breeder, who merely sells as pets, animals which they 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.


If you want to ‘keep a pet shop’ you must obtain a licence from your local authority which needs to be renewed annually. Failure to obtain a licence, or breach of its conditions, could see you facing a fine and/or imprisonment. The licence may be cancelled by the local authority and you may be disqualified by a court from keeping a pet shop for such period as the court thinks fit.

If a licence is refused or you want to appeal against any conditions of a licence, you can make an appeal to the magistrates’ court.

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

When deciding whether to grant a licence the local authority will need to be satisfied that you meet certain requirements. These include:

  • that animals will always be kept in accommodation suitable with regard to size, temperature, lighting, ventilation and cleanliness;
  • that animals will be sufficiently supplied with suitable food and drink and (as far as necessary) visited at suitable periods;
  • that mammals will not be sold at too early an age;
  • that all reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent the spread among animals of infectious diseases;
  • that appropriate steps will be taken in case of fire or other emergency.

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 PAA 1951, to sell an animal to a person whom the seller has reasonable grounds to believe to be under the age of 12 years.

Sale of pets on the street

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

Animal welfare

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

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.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.