Do I need a license to open a dog daycare?
You must comply with UK law to avoid any legal issues. Ensure you have the necessary licences in place before opening, and register all the necessary documents with the government.
Consult your local council and a legal advisor for the appropriate advice before setting up. There is always a possibility that an inspection team will pay you a visit to check your facility. There are no shortcuts – everything must be in place and you must be qualified and covered accordingly to ensure a quality, safe environment for your employees, customers and animals.
Insurance and liability
It goes without saying but looking after other people’s dogs is a big responsibility. You must have public liability insurance in place to protect your business. There are other types of insurance available that will cover you for theft, damage, repairs, fire, injuries, dog runaways, legal fees, natural disasters – anything that poses a risk to your business.
For example, professional indemnity insurance protects you against claims for loss or damage made by clients or third parties as a result of the impact of negligent services you provided or negligent advice you offered.
If you employ staff, employer’s liability insurance is compulsory because employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees whilst at work.
Always get professional advice when it comes to organising your insurance to ensure you’re protecting your business in the best possible way. Don’t cut corners with insurance – you need to ensure you’re covered should anything happen.
Animal welfare in the UK is forever improving. From 1st October 2018, all businesses offering dog boarding, home boarding or doggy day care services need to be licensed. You must hold and display a licence granted by the local authority.
It’s crucial to obtain a licence before operating. In England, the Animal Activities Licensing Regulations 2018 was introduced (updating the Animal Welfare Act 2006), while in Scotland and Wales, the Animal Boarding Establishment Act in 1963 governs dog boarding and day care. If you operate without a licence, you can be prosecuted and sentenced to up to three months in prison and fined up to £500 for each person, plus possible costs and victim surcharges.
So, how do you apply for a licence? It’s pretty simple – file an application form, pay a fee and have your home/venue inspected. Licences have conditions attached including how you care for the dogs and provide for their needs, how many dogs you can care for and a requirement to keep a record of the animals in your care.
The time it takes to get a licence depends on your council. Some are very quick and can organise your inspection and supply your licence within 10 days, however a month is average. (10 weeks also isn’t unheard of-!) Being inspected and actually receiving feedback and the licensing documentation can take two months.
Licences must be renewed annually, with most councils issuing licences from 1st Jan – 31st December for ease of administration. You can still apply any time of the year, but your licence will likely run until 31st December. In England, establishments that satisfy the licensing conditions can be licensed for 1, 2 or 3 years, at the discretion of the local authority; however, random inspections can take place. In Scotland and Wales, a dog boarding or dog day care licence is granted for up to one year and always expires at the end of December in the year it was granted. The Animal Activities Licensing Regulations (October 2018), has not yet been brought into effect in Scotland and Wales.
What will the licensing authority be looking for?
The inspectors look for a number of things including (but not limited to):
- Specialist knowledge in the species that they are caring for and a clear understanding of its needs and welfare
- Accurate record keeping and up-to-date information on the dogs they are looking after
- An understanding of risks involved in caring for the animal, including an extensive risk assessment and written policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly. These documents should be available for the inspector to examine
- Proper safety and hygiene in sleeping spaces, play spaces and around the dogs’ food
- Adequate space for dogs to relax, play and eat
- A sensible ratio of carers to dogs
- The right level of training and supervision for any staff or helpers you may have
- Plenty of appropriate mental stimulation for the dogs
- A daily exercise routine that meets each dog’s individual needs
- Measures to prevent illness and injury
- A plan for what to do in an emergency
- Being able to handle dogs appropriately and safely
- Training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them, and clear evidence of good supervision of staff
- The premises itself will be assessed so the licensing authority can be sure the licence holder can meet the conditions relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept.
Based on the information provided and the inspection, the inspector will assess the risk rating and award a star rating. This will determine the length of the licence period. Low-risk businesses can attain 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 ask for a re-inspection (fees apply).