The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018

This broad and far reaching legislation, which came into force from 1 October 2018, has had a major impact on home dog carers and boarders. Strict licensing conditions have meant that many home boarders have had to alter their environment, care and services to comply. Detailed documentation from the Government's Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on the ‘Animal Welfare (Licencing of Activities Involving Animals) Regulations’ can be viewed in full online. 

Below is a summary of some of the key requirements, which will help you understand why our new customer forms are so detailed and why preparation has been essential before launching our daycare and boarding!

Home environment

There are quite a few rules relating to the home environment and building design. They include: 

  • Direct access to a private, non-communal, secure and hazard-free external area
  • At least two secure physical barriers between any dog and any entrance to or exit from it to avoid escape 
  • Every dog must have their own private designated room space when home boarding, where they can relax, sleep and retreat to when needed
  • Rooms with a full height, securable door to control access and security at all times

Expertise & knowledge

Home boarding carers will only be allowed to look after dogs if they hold at least a Level 2 (recommended Level 3) in an OFQUAL regulated qualification, demonstrating that they have the education, knowledge and skills in dog walking and/or animal care.  Exceptions include those who can show clear evidence of knowledge and experience (e.g. former breeders or veterinary assistants).

Policies & procedures

Home boarding carers will need to keep full policy and procedure documentation including; training for all staff members, cleaning regimes, monitoring and ensuring the safety and welfare of all animals, and emergency procedures. Full records will need to be kept on; attendance, behaviour monitoring and documentation of familiarisation sessions. 

Client consent

Written consent from customers is required before home board carers can do the following things: 

  • Walk your dog off the lead 
  • Walk your dogs with other dogs from mixed households
  • Walk your dog outside of the home or garden environments
  • To decide which veterinarian is used 
  • Give any medical preventative treatments
  • Use a crate
  • Feed your dog anywhere except by themselves in their designated private room
  • Use enrichment such as toys and scatter feeders
  • Allow other dogs to use the outdoor space at the same time as your dog


All premises will be inspected before a licence is granted to assess whether the licence holder can meet the requirements relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept. The inspector will be looking to make sure the applicant has the following:

  • Specialist knowledge in the species they are caring for and a clear understanding of its needs and welfare: the animals' mental and physical health, feeding and knowledge of environmental enrichment
  • Comprehensive records that contain all the information required by the conditions that apply to their particular activities (plan of the premises, copy of insurance policy, operating procedures, forms and records, risk assessments (including fire), infection control procedure, proof of educational qualifications, training records)
  • Understanding of risks involved in caring for the animal, including an extensive risk assessment and written policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly
  • Training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them, and clear evidence of good supervision of staff.


Frequently asked questions

Why were the regulations introduced?

There have been significant advances in the understanding of dog behaviour and welfare in recent decades, yet the licensing systems for businesses that work with animals had not been reformed for almost 50 years. The 2018 regulations establish new measures to ensure those conducting animal activities do so to the best standards of animal welfare. They replace all previous legislation governing dog breeding, selling and boarding in England, which pre-dated the 2006 Animal Welfare Act:   

  • Pet Animals Act 1951 
  • Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963 
  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 
  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1991  
  • Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999

What are the main changes?

The changes were designed to simplify licensing into one system for local authorities, help consumers to make better informed decisions and safeguard animal welfare, certifying higher standards and levels of care for animals. The practice legislation was updated with the help of animal welfare charities, including Dogs Trust and the RSPCA, and implements key requirements from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Model Licence Conditions as law.

There is now a single licensing regime for a number of animal licensing activities relating to the selling, breeding and boarding of dogs, including for home boarders and daycare companies, to ensure that their five key needs are met:

  • Need for a suitable environment
  • Need for a suitable diet
  • Need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns (such as exercise)
  • Need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • Need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Dog owners in England will be able to check whether a doggy daycare or home boarder have a licence and see a star-rating awarded by the local authority.

Who needs a licence?

Breeders, boarding kennels, at-home boarders and doggy day-care providers all now require a licence. However, the changes to the legislation allow dog walkers, dog groomers and dog hydrotherapists to continue without the need for a licence from their local council.

How long do licences last?

Licences are issued as fixed-term, starting from any point during the year to prevent a build-up of inspections coming at a single time of year. Local authorities use a risk-based approach to issuing licences: lower risk and higher performing operators are permitted to hold a licence for longer, and with fewer inspections, as an incentive for higher standards and to reduce the burden on local authorities. A licence lasts for between 12 month and 26 months depending on the star rating. 

What does the star rating mean?

The level of risk is determined from the application and inspection with one to five stars awarded using a scoring method created by DEFRA which awards points based on:

  • A history of compliance over the previous three years*
  • No evidence of follow-up action by the local authority in the last year*
  • No re-inspections before next planned licence inspection/renewal*
  • No complaints of welfare standards or procedural issues during the previous three years*
  • Licence holder records and documents any feedback 
  • Sound understanding and implementation of relevant environmental enrichment
  • Appreciation and control of hazards/risks to both staff and animals 
  • Suitably planned maintenance, repair and replacement for infrastructure and equipment 
  • Staff have specialist and appropriate knowledge of species and monitor adequately
  • Clear roles, responsibilities and duties for reporting and addressing issues and risk
  • Welfare management policies/procedures documented, implemented and reviewed   
  • Appropriate supervision of  any staff 
  • All required records are maintained and made available
  • Planned training programme for staff to review and assess competency

*Please be advised that because several of the criteria require the operator to have been in business for more than a year (up to three in some cases), new businesses like Dachshunds Daycare cannot obtain more than a two-star rating on first inspection.

Why don't dog walkers or groomers need a licence?

The Government did not consider that sufficient evidence was presented during the consultation period to justify including these activities in its new licensing regime, but this may reconsidered at the five-year review period. Regardless, dog walkers providing a service must get public liability insurance and best practice guidance, from the likes of NarpsUK, advocates the use of criminal record checks for holding keys.

Frequently asked questions CONTINUED...

Why are businesses that have not been licensed before considered as high risk?

Any business that has not been licensed before does not have a history of compliance with their local authority and so cannot be classed as low risk. They can, however, meet the higher standards and so are able to achieve a two-year licence and a four-star rating. 

Businesses that have been in operation for a number of years should have held a licence under the existing legislation or were most likely operating illegally. 

Do dogs need to be constantly supervised in daycare & home boarding?

In home boarding, dogs must not be routinely left alone for more than three  hours in a 24-hour period, or shorter intervals as necessary for the individual health, safety and welfare of an individual dog. In dog daycare, dogs must be supervised at all times. 

Why does each dog need its own designated room?

The purpose of the designated rooms is so that dogs can be separated if the need arises (e.g. if they are being aggressive towards one another). The dogs should not be permanently shut in their designated rooms. Dogs from the same family unit can share a designated room; this includes the owner’s dogs, but dogs from different family units cannot share a room, even if permission from the owner is granted. Bedrooms can be used as designated rooms as long as the usual occupant of the room is aged over 16. Bathrooms and hallways may be deemed suitable rooms (as long as they meet the other guidance requirements). Barriers may also be used to separate rooms into more than one designated room. 

Can dogs be crated?

If crates are used, a dog must not be secured in a crate for longer than one hour in any eight-hour period (three hours in 24) and must not be crated unless a crate forms part of the normal routine for the dog and the dog's owner has consented to the use of it. A crate can be used overnight as long as the crate is kept open so that the dog is not confined. 

Can providers operate while the local authority considers their application?

No, it is an offence to operate any of the animal activities as a business without a licence. This is why Dachshunds Daycare launched with dog walking services only, stating clearly that daycare and boarding would be provided only after a successful licence application had been made. 

What about unlicensed businesses?

Unlicensed businesses are committing an offence under Section 13 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. A person guilty of this offence is liable to an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison.