What are the legal requirements for running boarding kennels?

The requirement to hold a licence

An individual seeking to run boarding kennels for dogs or cats must first obtain an animal boarding establishment licence from the local authority.

What does the law say?

Boarding kennels are “boarding establishments” as defined by the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963, which means the carrying on at any premises of a business providing accommodation for other people’s cats and dogs. This includes kennels which are run from a private dwelling.

Where someone provides accommodation for dogs or cats in connection with a business, but the provision of the accommodation is not the main activity of the business (for example a vet), then this falls outside of the legal definition of a boarding establishment and a licence is not required.

Can a licence be granted to anyone?

A licence will not be granted if the applicant is disqualified from keeping a boarding establishment for animals, or from keeping a pet shop.

Similarly, a licence will not be granted if the applicant is disqualified from owning, keeping, dealing in, or having custody of or transporting animals; or has been convicted of any other animal welfare offences.

What matters will a local authority consider 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. It will seek to ensure that the animals will be suitably fed and exercised, and that reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and to guard against fire.

The local authority will also check that a proper register of animals will be maintained. The register should state the dates of arrival and departure of each animal, together with name and address of the owner.

A local authority has the discretion to refuse a licence on other grounds.

Will conditions be placed on the licence?

Any licence granted will be subject to conditions; for instance, how many dogs or cats you can take in; minor adjustments you must make; the minimum size of kennel required; and so on. If necessary, you can appeal to the Magistrates’ Court against the conditions of a licence.

If you contravene the licence conditions, you can be fined £500 and/or imprisoned for up to three months.

The licence may also be cancelled by the court, and the holder may be disqualified from holding such a licence for a period of time the court thinks fit. Where a court cancels a licence or disqualifies a person, it may suspend the operation of the order pending an appeal.

How long does a licence last for?

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

If the licence holder dies, the licence automatically transfers to their personal representatives for up to 3 months. If, after that time, they wish to continue with the running of the boarding kennels, for example, to enable the business to be sold as a going concern, they will have to apply for a licence in their own name/s.

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 not having a licence?

If you run boarding kennels without a licence, you can be fined £500 and/or imprisoned for up to 3 months. You could also be disqualified from holding a licence for such period of time that the court thinks fit.

Inspections by local authorities and vets

A local authority has the power to inspect boarding kennels and their records, or authorise a veterinary surgeon or practitioner to carry out an inspection on its behalf. It is a criminal offence to wilfully obstruct or delay an inspector, punishable with a fine.

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

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 created a number of criminal offences, the purpose of which are to prevent harm to animals and to promote the welfare of animals. Where an animal welfare offence is committed, the court may cancel a licence, disqualify a person from keeping boarding premises, fine a person and, in some instances, order the imprisonment of a person.

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.