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

On 1 October 2018, the new Regulations of activities involving animals came into force which changed the previous licensing regime for businesses involved in dog boarding which includes home boarding and day care. Anyone engaged in this activity must be licensed and it is against the law to operate such a business without a council license.

Animal Activity Licence - Determining the length of a licence and the star rating of a business.

This rather lengthy article is an extract from the DEFRA Animal Welfare (Licensiing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 and it has been published to help dog owners understand the star rating as applied by local councils in England. The article explains how the points system works that enables a council to consider if a business is high or low risk.
Assessing risk & standards
1. This guidance describes the risk-based system that must be used when issuing animal activities licences under the Regulations with the exception of “Keeping or Training Animals for Exhibition” where all licences are issued for 3 years. This system should be used to determine both the length of the licence and the star rating to award. Local authorities in England are expected to follow it in full.
2. The purpose is to ensure consistency in implementation and operation of the licensing system by local authorities, and to ensure that consumers can be confident that the star rating applied to businesses is an accurate reflection of both their risk level and the animal welfare standards that they adopt.
Animals activity star rating system
3. The scoring matrix for a premises is displayed in Table 1.
Table 1 – The Scoring Matrix

Scoring Matrix
Welfare Standards

Minor FailingsMinimum StandardsHigher Standards
Low Risk1 Star

1 Year Licence
3 Star

2 Year Licence
5 Star

3 Year Licence
Higher Risk1 Star

1 Year Licence
2 Star

1 Year Licence
4 Star

2 Year Licence

All licences are subject to 1 unannounced visit within the term of the licence
4. The model takes into account both the animal welfare standards adopted by a business as well as their level of risk (based on elements such as past compliance). This model should be used every time a licence is granted or renewed.

5. Businesses must be given a star rating, ranging from 1 star to 5 stars, based on this model, and the results of their inspection. This star rating must be listed on the licence by the issuing local authority officer. The system incorporates safeguards to ensure fairness to businesses. This includes an appeal procedure and a mechanism for requesting a re-inspection for the purposes of re-rating when improvements have been made.

6. In order to use this model to calculate the length of the licence and associated star rating, it is necessary to address the following questions, based on the inspection and on records of past compliance:
(a)   Does the business meet the minimum standards?
(b)   Does the business meet the higher standards?
(c)   Is the business low or higher risk?

Does the business meet the minimum standards?

7. To obtain a licence for a single activity i.e. dog breeding, the applicant must meet the minimum standards set out in the specific Schedules to the Regulations (i.e. for Dog Breeding, Schedule 6) in addition to those in the General Schedule (Schedule 2). All businesses should meet the minimum standards but see paragraph 69 below for minor failings.

8. Additional information on how to meet these standards for each activity are outlined in the relevant specific guidance documents. During an inspection, the inspector should assess whether or not the business is meeting each of these minimum standards. If this is the case, they will qualify for a minimum of a two star rating (but subject to paragraph 69 below for minor failings).

Minor failings

9. If an existing business has a number of minor failings with regards to the minimum standards laid down in the schedules and the guidance, they should receive a risk rating score of 1 star. These minor failings should be predominantly administrative or if they are in relation to standards, they must not compromise the welfare of the animals. If animal welfare is being compromised, a licence should not be granted/renewed or, if already in place, should be suspended or revoked.

Does the business meet the higher standards?

10. For each activity, a number of higher standards have been agreed. Meeting the higher standards is optional but is the only way to gain a higher star rating. The higher standards are classified in to two types: required and optional and are outlined in the relevant guidance documents for the activity in question. To distinguish required standards from optional ones they have each been given a specific colour which is used in each guidance document. Higher standards that appear in blue text are required, whereas those that appear in red text are optional. To qualify as meeting the higher standards, the business needs to achieve all of the required higher standards as well as a minimum of 50% of the optional higher standards. During aninspection, the inspector should assess whether or not the business meets the required number of higher standards.

11. Where a scheme utilising UKAS accredited certification is operational, it will be operated against either the minimum or higher standards as set out in the certification scheme criteria and as agreed with UKAS as part of the accreditation process. If a business is certified by a UKAS-accredited certification body to the higher standards, they should automatically be considered as meeting these standards, unless there is significant evidence of poor animal welfare or non-compliance is identified during the inspection.

Is the business low or high risk?

12. Table 2 Risk Scoring Table below should be used to determine if a business that is not certified by a UKAS accredited body is low or higher risk.

13. The risk assessment is not meant to reconsider specific issues taken into account in assessment of compliance with the minimum or higher standards. It does, however, require an assessment on the likelihood of satisfactory compliance being maintained in the future.

14. In considering risk, “management” covers the system as a whole. For a multi-site business, the company wide management system and procedures are a key element of this but local site / premises management is also important as that will influence how these systems and procedures are applied

15. Assessments of the written procedures should be based on the principle of proportionality, i.e. commensurate with the nature and size of the business. For small businesses which present lower risks, it may be sufficient that the business has in place good welfare practices and understands and applies them, i.e. it meets its prerequisites.

Certification by a UKAS-accredited body

16. Any business that is certified by a UKAS-accredited body and has three or more years of compliance history with this body should be considered low risk and receive the higher star ratings (unless there is significant evidence of poor animal welfare or non- compliance) as the welfare and risk management systems have been reviewed by an accredited third party.

17. New businesses that do not have three years of compliance history with a local authority or a UKAS-accredited body should automatically be considered high risk as they have no operational history.

18. If concerns are raised at the inspection indicating that the certified business may not be operating to the high standards or controlling risks appropriately, the inspector will address these in line with the guidance on procedural issues and the risk rating score adjusted accordingly. In addition these concerns should be reported directly to the UKAS-accredited body so that they can also intervene and / or suspend or withdraw
the business’s certification.

19. Where businesses are certified by a UKAS-accredited body, that body can inform the relevant local authority with a list of the certified businesses in their area. Where notified, and where covered by confidentiality waivers, the local authority may request the UKAS-accredited body’s inspection reports and can use that information to informits own inspection including using the UKAS-accredited body’s assessment of compliance.

20. For existing licensed businesses that are not certified by a UKAS-accredited body that are applying for a licence renewal, the following risk management table (Table 2) should be used to generate a risk score for the business. Each element should be reviewed and a score given (1 for low risk and 2 for high risk). An overall score can then be arrived at.

21. Where there is any uncertainty, if a business cannot provide satisfactory evidence that it is low risk in a given category, it should be scored as high risk.

22.  A score of 17 or less is required for the business to be classed as low risk and a score of 18 or more means that the business will be classed as higher risk.

Table 2 – Risk Scoring Table    

Low (Score1)
High (Score 2)
Compliance History - inspections
Documented evidence from formal inspections over the previous three   years reveal consistent and high levels of compliance in terms of welfare   standards and risk management.
Formal inspections over the previous three years reveal some degree of non-compliance that has required the intervention of the inspector for the business to ultimately recognise and address these.
More serious breaches would attract other enforcement action: suspension, revocation, prosecution.
Compliance History – follow up action
No evidence of follow-up action by local authority in the last year apart from providing the licence holder with a copy of the inspection report, or sending them a letter identifying some minor, administrative areas for improvement (e.g. minor record keeping issues).
Follow up action by the local authority, such as sending them letters, triggered by low level non-compliance that is not addressed, or the business does not recognise the significance of the need to address the non- compliance.
Compliance History – re- inspection
No re-inspection necessary (apart from standard unannounced inspection) before next planned licence inspection / renewal
Re-inspection necessary to ensure compliance.
Complaint History
– complaints to the LA
No complaints received direct to the LA that are justified in relation to welfare standards or procedural issues during the previous three years.
Low level substantiated complaints identifying concerns over the   business / licence holder have been received within the previous three years.
Complaint History
– complaints to the business
Licence holder records and documents any feedback received directly, in order to demonstrate compliance and willingness to address issues, and can provide evidence of this.
Licence holder does not record feedback received directly or show willingness to address any issues identified.
Appreciation of welfare standards - enrichment
Sound understanding by the licence holder of relevant environmental enrichment applicable to the activity (guided by expert advice), with demonstrated implementation.
Little environmental enrichment present, inconsistently used and its importance not understood or really valued.
Appreciation of hazards / risks
Licence holder clearly understands their role and responsibilities under the legislation. Hazards to both staff and animals clearly understood, properly controlled and reviewed with supporting evidence where applicable.
Licence holder not fully engaged with their role/responsibilities, lacks time to fulfil role, no system for review and reassessment of hazards to both animals and staff.
Appreciation of hazards / risks - maintenance
A suitably planned maintenance, repair and replacement program for infrastructure and equipment is in place.
No planned maintenance program. Building, installations and equipment allowed to deteriorate before action is implemented.
Appreciation of hazards / risks – knowledge and experience
A suitably planned maintenance, repair and replacement program for infrastructure and equipment is in place.
Key staff lack experience / knowledge of the species. Staff appear overburdened and / or unsupported by management, corners being cut.
Appreciation of hazards / risks – dealing with issues
Clear defined roles / responsibilities of staff, with clear processes for reporting and addressing any identified issues.
Lack of any process, or ownership and responsibility within the business to identify and deal with issues.
Welfare management procedures – written procedures
Written procedures / policies clearly documented, implemented and reviewed appropriately.
Limited written procedures / polices. No overall strategic control or direction.
Welfare management procedures – supervision of staff
Appropriate supervision of staff evident where applicable.
Inadequate supervision of staff evident on inspection or from the training records.
Welfare management procedures – record keeping
All required records maintained and made available.
Poor standard of record keeping, records out of date or appear to be being manufactured – relevance of records not appreciated
Welfare management procedures - training
Planned training program for staff to review and assess competency, with documented training records.
Little or no evidence of relevant training or system for review and reassessment.
Score of 17 or less = Low risk
Score of 18 or more = Higher risk.
We hope that this article has been informative. For further information on animal activity licences please follow this link
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