Boarding for cats and dogs

Updated guidance for February 2022 →

DEFRA have updated the guidance notes / conditions that accompany The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 and these came into force on 1 February 2022. Full details of the amended guidance is available on GOV.UK (external link)

If you providing boarding for cats and dogs, you may need an animal activity licence. To obtain a licence, you need to ensure that you meet the specific licence conditions for commercial boarding establishments.

Please note: Due to COVID-19 we have reviewed our processes to ensure we can comply with our legal responsibilities to safely inspect premises and be able to determine applications. We will now be doing this in a two-stage process, which will initially involve a remote assessment, followed by a site inspection. It is hoped that by completing most of the assessment remotely via phone, that the time spent on site to carry out the physical inspection will be considerably less.  

  1. Remote Assessments – These will usually take place within 4 weeks of an application (subject to receipt of all relevant documentation)
  2. Site Inspection – These will usually take place within 8 weeks of an application.

Do I need a licence?

You will need a licence if you are:

  • A business which provides accommodation for other people’s cats and dogs, where the provision of that accommodation is part or solely the activity of the business
  • Providing overnight accommodation for dogs in a home environment, this would be classed as  home boarding for dogs
  • A business providing daytime accommodation for dogs away from the dogs normal place of residence and does not keep them overnight, this would be classed as  day care for dogs
  • A business that arranges accommodation for other people’s cat and dogs, e.g. businesses which connect pet owners with people willing to look after their animals for no fee (just minor expenses). The accommodation provided in these circumstances must meet the conditions set by the legislation and it is the responsibility of the business to ensure that this is the case - see further guidance below. The business must provide (and keep updated) a list of their associated premises. This applies regardless of whether the business is arranging for dog boarding in kennels, cat boarding, home boarding or dog day care
  • A business which provide overnight accommodation for cats in purpose built cattery units
  • Providing home boarding for cats, where the cats are kept in purpose built cattery units and not in the domestic home.

Anyone carrying out this activity without the relevant licence could be prosecuted and face imprisonment of up to 6 months, receive a fine or both.

See further guidance on cat boarding(external link) and dog boarding (external link).

When do I NOT need a licence?

You will NOT need a licence if you are:

  • A business providing accommodation for other people’s cats and dogs, but where the provision of that accommodation is not the purpose of that business, for example, veterinary practices where the accommodation provided is part of the treatment of the animal
  • Providing home boarding of cats within a domestic setting is not permitted
  • A business that looks after a cat within its normal place of residence (i.e. cat sitters).


To find out how much your animal activity licence will cost, see:

How to apply

Please note:  The licence, if granted, is non-transferrable should the premises / business be sold or taken over by another operator.  If the licence holder dies, the personal representative of the licence holder can take on the licence provided that they inform the local authority within 28 days of the death that they are now the operators.


We are required to carry out an inspection of all premises where licensable activities take place before we can approve an application.

As part of your inspection, you will be given a rating based on specific criteria.

What do I do if I already have a licence?

Before the expiry date of your licence, you will need to make an application for a licence under the new regulations.

You are advised to familiarise yourself with the new licence conditions to ensure you are able to comply with these before making a new application - see further guidance on cat boarding(external link) and dog boarding (external link).

Public register

We maintain a public register of all the businesses which hold an animal activity licence, a copy of which is available below. This will be updated on a regular basis.

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