Selling animals as pets

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

Changes have been made to improve the existing animal licensing regulations. These changes aim to simplify the application and inspection process for businesses, and improve existing animal welfare animal standards.

The updated regulations are called the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.  

The changes came into effect on 1 October 2018.

Further information and guidance

Who can apply?

Anyone who has not been disqualified from keeping animals may apply.

At least one member of staff must (in the opinion of the local authority, when taking into account the animals being sold) have appropriate training.

Is planning permission required?

We recommend that you discuss your proposals with our Planning team to decide whether a planning application is needed.


Apply to sell animals as pets

Alternative PDF version: Apply to sell animals as pets

How much does a licence cost?

Fees will be payable for applications.

Pay for a new application or renewal online

Please note you need to submit an application form as well as make the payment.

How long does a licence last?

Under the new legislation, licences can be issued for up to three years.

The licence expiry date will depend on the risk rating that is given to the business at the time of inspection. It will also depend on compliance with both the general conditions and the higher standards.

Inspections and Star Ratings

All premises will be inspected before the licence is granted. The inspector will be looking to make sure the applicant has the following:

  • A specialist knowledge of the species you are caring for
  • A clear understanding of its needs and welfare (this includes the mental and physical health of the animal, feeding and environmental requirements). The applicant should be able to demonstrate that the necessary research has been carried out, and expert guidance has been followed
  • Comprehensive records containing all the information required by the conditions relevant to the application
  • An understanding of risks involved in caring for the animal. This includes an extensive risk assessment, as well as written policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly. These documents should be available for the inspector to examine
  • Training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them
  • Clear evidence of good supervision of staff
  • The applicant's premises will also be assessed, to make sure that the new laws relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept are met

Based on the information, we will assess the risk rating and award stars.

Low-risk premises can be awarded up to five stars, and premises that have been assessed as higher risk can be awarded up to four stars.

If the applicant is not satisfied with the decision, they can make improvements to address highlighted issues and request a re-inspection (fees apply). 

Businesses will automatically be deemed high risk until they have held their licence for one year.

Premises with lower star ratings

A premises with a lower star rating is not necessarily a premises to avoid. There are other factors that have to be considered, such as the length of time the licence holder has been operating.

New businesses will be assessed as slightly higher risk. This is simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered.

Information on how the length of a licence and the star rating are decided can be found in the procedural guidance notes for local authorities February 2022.

How do I improve my rating?

DEFRA have produced some guidance to aid the inspection process.

There are some ‘optional’ and ‘required’ conditions which may help you to achieve a higher star rating.

If customers have any concerns, please contact the Food and Safety Team before making a purchase or making booking arrangements.

What can I do if my licence application is refused?

If your application is refused, you can apply to the magistrates' court.

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