Boarding kennel legal issues

Multiple dogs playing outdoors with woman watching them

The following is an outline of some of the areas which may be particularly relevant to your pet boarding business.

In addition to the requirement for all boarding kennels to be licensed by their local authority (and to adhere to their licensing conditions) under the terms of the Animal Boarding Establishments Act, there are several other pieces of legislation which are likely to be particularly relevant to your business. These include:

  • Animal Welfare Act. This Act concerns animal welfare and the prevention of cruelty. It is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal (for example, by neglecting it). DEFRA has published welfare codes of practice for owners and keepers of cats and dogs (including those running and working in boarding establishments) to help them comply with the Act
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations. These regulate the use and storage of any potentially hazardous substances, for example cleaning and disinfecting chemicals. Also covered are requirements to control the risk posed by micro-organisms which cause zoonoses (animal diseases which can also affect humans, such as salmonellosis)
  • Waste regulations. Under waste regulations, dog and cat faeces from kennels and catteries are controlled industrial wastes and as such are subject to specific disposal requirements. Many kennels/catteries use septic tanks or cesspits to store this type of waste. The stored waste is then collected by a registered waste collector and disposed of at an authorised site. The local environmental health department should if necessary be contacted for further information about waste disposal arrangements
  • Dangerous Dogs Act. This Act imposes restrictions on certain breeds of dogs. In order to be admitted to the kennels, a dog classified as dangerous must be accompanied by an official Certificate of Exemption and a third party insurance certificate. Amendments to the Act also make it a criminal offence for a person to be in charge of any dog that is 'dangerously out of control' - not just in a public place but in a place like a private home or garden
  • Environmental Protection Act. This Act (and the regulations mentioned above) covers waste disposal and requires that businesses dispose of waste properly by using a registered carrier or an appropriately licensed disposal facility. The Act also covers nuisances caused by noise and smells, which may need to be considered by boarding kennels
  • Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order. If you transport animals as part of your business you must be authorised as an animal transporter. For long journeys (over eight hours), vehicles must have been inspected and approved. Drivers or attendants responsible for transporting animals more than 65 kilometres are required to hold a certificate of competence

What licences does a boarding kennel need?

The Animal Welfare (licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, which came into force on 1 October 2018, require anyone who provides boarding for cats or dogs in England to apply to their local authority for an animal activity licence. Before issuing a licence, inspectors appointed by the local authority will inspect the premises and make recommendations as to whether the applicant's conduct as the operator of a licensable activity shows them to be a 'fit and proper person'.

A fee is payable for a license, which can be granted for one, two or three years. The general licence conditions will cover:

  • the requirement to display the licence
  • the records to be maintained
  • number and type of animals that can be boarded
  • staffing requirements
  • the suitability of the environment
  • dietary requirements
  • interaction with the animals
  • protection from pain, suffering and disease
  • emergency procedures

The regulations provide for fines and/or imprisonment for operating without a licence and fines for breaching the licence terms.

Under the transitional arrangements, any unexpired licence under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963 continues in force for the remainder of its term.

The commercial provision of home boarding or daycare for dogs in England is also covered by the requirement for an animal activities licence.

Animal welfare is a devolved activity so these changes don't apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, each administration is reviewing the legislation and it is very likely that changes will be made in the near future.

Under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act (in Scotland and Wales and similar legislation in Northern Ireland), all proprietors of boarding kennels require a licence from the local authority. This will only be granted after a visit by a local authority officer, who must be satisfied that the business meets the required standards. In addition, many authorities require that the proprietor has an appropriate qualification before they will issue a licence. The number of dogs and cats for which the premises is licensed must be specified on the licence, and a copy of the licence itself must be displayed at the premises. There is an annual fee for the licence - this varies depending on your local authority. Licences are renewed annually.

Kennel & Cattery Design specialises in providing practical guidance on starting up a pet boarding establishment, including design and licensing requirements. You can find out more about their Starting a kennels kit on the Kennel Design website.

International Cat Care publishes advice and guidance on constructing and setting up a cattery. You can find out more on their website.

Most local authorities require pet home boarding providers (people who accept a limited number of animals to be looked after in their homes) to be licensed and to meet licensing conditions. However, there is some inconsistency over how licensing requirements and standards are set and enforced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Pet sitters (people who stay in the pet owner's home to look after their animals) do not require a licence.

Pet sitters and home boarding providers might decide to get a background criminal record check to reassure their customers, but there is no legal requirement to do this.

There is more information about licensing of animal boarding establishments on the website. For information about local licensing requirements and conditions contact your local authority environmental health department.

Be aware that you will almost certainly require planning permission if you're building or converting your boarding unit.

Health & safety, fire

Fire safety is particularly important in pet boarding establishments, where large amounts of often flammable bedding materials are used and heaters are generally present.

You must also make sure that you comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

You may decide that you need part time help with some of the jobs around the kennels - perhaps on Saturday mornings. This type of work is popular with teenagers and young people, but if you do employ someone who's under 16 then you must be aware of special child employment rules.

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include:

Recruitment and employment contracts

Pay and pensions

Working time: hours, leave, flexible working

Employment policies

Sickness and sick pay

Maternity, paternity and adoption


Managing home workers, remote workers, lone workers

Discipline and grievance

Dismissals and redundancies

Employment tribunals

Insurance for a boarding kennnel

When you start up in business you will need insurance cover. Adequate and appropriate insurance cover is generally a licensing condition for pet boarding establishments, and insurance certificates should be prominently displayed. Contact an insurer and explain exactly how your business will operate. They will then recommend what cover you should have and give you an idea of cost.

As with many other items of business expenditure, you can often save money by shopping around. Although many insurers can offer a complete package of business insurances, often at a competitive price, remember that you don't have to take out all of your business insurance policies with the same insurer.

The types of insurance cover needed by your business might include:

  • employer's liability (required by law)
  • public liability
  • premises and premises contents
  • business interruption
  • third party legal protection cover in the event that one of the animals in your care bit someone or injured another animal - perhaps when out being walked
  • professional negligence, including cover for the loss of an animal
  • animal welfare prosecution cover
  • liability for noise, smoke or effluent pollution
  • other environmental liability
  • motor insurance (for your own animal collection vehicles, if appropriate)
  • insurance to cover veterinary fees

The Pet Industry Federation (PIF), which incorporates the UK Kennel and Cattery Association, offers its members access to business insurance policies designed specifically for the pet industry. For more information visit the PIF website.

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