Animal welfare and licensing

Animal welfare establishments with a licence

You can find out if a business is licensed to keep animals by looking at our list of animal welfare establishments.

Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) Regulations 2018

The law governing the licensing of animal welfare establishments changed on the 1 October 2018. 

The licensing applies to the following activities:

  • selling animals as pets
  • providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs (including day care and/or home boarding of dogs)
  • hiring out horses
  • breeding dogs
  • keeping or training animals for exhibition

The changes do not apply to Zoo licences or Dangerous Wild Animals licences. These remain covered by existing legislation, but do still require a licence.

Licensing of livery yards, racing greyhounds, animal sanctuaries and rescue centres is being considered.

Understanding the changes

It is important that licence holders understand the guidance relevant to their business but as a start your attention is drawn to the following key changes:

  • inspections are risk based 
  • a performance rating system is introduced and linked to the period of the licence
  • licences can be issued for one, two or three years.
  • the fees have been recalculated and based on “reasonable anticipated costs” of the process.
  • protection is provided for licences in the event of the death of the licence holder.
  • specific training qualifications have been introduced 
  • licenses can be varied, suspended or revoked
  • an appeals process is established for refusal of a licence,  alterations to the licence and the performance rating
  • emphasis is placed on the suitability of the environment for the particular needs of the animal
  • emphasis for animal welfare is put on the management arrangements.
  • isolation facilities must be adequate. They may take the form of an arrangement with your vet and confirmed in writing.
  • arrangements for suitable transport are included. Where the business has a web site it must display the licence holder's name and the licence number
  • service of documents can be made by email to the last known email address of the licence holder
  • the Council cannot issue a licence in any circumstances other than those described in the regulations

Summary of the requirements

New applications

You are advised to read the relevant guidance and speak to an Animal Welfare Officer before making an application.

Animal Welfare Act 2006

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 came into force on 6 April 2007.

The aim of the Act is to improve the welfare of animals, impose greater responsibility on their carers, and provide greater investigation and entry powers for police and local authority staff to deal with offences.

Under section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is the duty of any person responsible for an animal to ensure that its welfare needs are met.  These include:

  • the need for a suitable environment (how it is housed)
  • the need for a suitable diet (what it eats and drinks)
  • the need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • any need to be housed with or apart from other animals, and
  • the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act

Cheshire East Council will respond to complaints regarding farm animal welfare and welfare complaints relating to premises which it licenses, including premises that it is believed should be licensed. You should make complaints regarding other animals, including domestic pets to the RSPCA.


The Local Authority, Police or a member of the public can undertake a prosecution which can be started up to 3 years after the offence (as long as its is within 6 months of the evidence becoming available).


Penalties will vary, but the most serious offences could incur a fine of up to £20,000 and /or 51 weeks imprisonment. Powers will be available to impose disqualification orders banning a person from owning or looking after animals and either dealing or transporting animals.

Reporting stray dogs and cats

The Dog Warden Service can assist with stray, barking or aggressive dogs. Dog fouling complaints should be referred to the Community Wardens. The Council does not deal with stray cats but you can contact the RSPCA.