Boarding for cats or dogs

If you want to run a:

  • boarding kennel
  • cattery
  • dog creche
  • day care centre

or you want to look after other people's dogs in your own home, you need a licence from your local authority.

The number of cats and dogs that may be accommodated will be stated on the licence, alongside other specific conditions.

The local authority may authorise an officer, veterinary surgeon or practitioner to inspect licensed premises.

Establishments need a licence from the local authority. This is in order to regulate animal welfare standards.

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

Changes to the existing regulations were made in 2018, in order to:

  • improve the effectiveness of existing regulations
  • simplify the application and inspection process for businesses
  • maintain and improve existing animal welfare standards

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

The new Regulations came into effect on 1 October 2018.

Further information and guidance

Is planning permission required?

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

Will tacit consent apply?

No. An animal boarding establishment must not be run without a licence.

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 the compliance with both the general conditions and the higher standards.

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.


Apply for boarding cats or dogs (Word document)

Apply for boarding cats or dogs (alternative PDF document version)

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.

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 applicant
  • 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. 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 ask for a re-inspection (fees apply). 

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 star ratings 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 documents which will be used by inspectors to aid the inspection process.

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

If you 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.

Public Register

Animal Licence Register (Babergh)

Animal Licence Register (Mid Suffolk)

Trade Associations