Pet shop licences

About pet shop/vending licences

Summary of requirements

The Pet Animals Act 1951 requires any person who runs a business selling pet animals to have a licence from the local authority in whose area the animal is to be sold from. This includes all commercial selling of pet animals, including pet shops and businesses selling animals over the internet, including selling animals from domestic premises. Trade in pets is not allowed from any part of a street, public place, or at a stall or barrow in a market.

Note: Pet animals include any vertebrate animals - fish, amphibian, reptile, bird or mammal.

A pet shop licence is not required if a person:

  • only occasionally sells the unwanted offspring of an animal that they keep as a pet
  • is in the business of breeding pedigree animals and in conjunction with the business sells animals as pets that were originally acquired for breeding or show purposes but are not suitable. 

About a Pet Shop Licence

When considering an application for a pet shop licence, we must have regard to the following:

  • that animals will be kept in suitable accommodation, for example in regards to temperature, size, lighting, ventilation and cleanliness
  • adequate food and drink will be provided to the animals and they will be visited at suitable intervals
  • that any mammalian animals will not be sold too young
  • that steps are taken to prevent disease spreading among the animals
  • that adequate fire and emergency provisions are in place 

Before a licence is granted, an inspection will be carried out to ensure that your premises are suitable to be used as a pet shop. We have authorised officers from the Corporation of London's veterinary service to carry out this inspection on its behalf in respect of animal welfare matters. You may also receive an inspection prior to the renewal of your licence. 

The licence will be subject to our standard conditions and, if necessary, to additional conditions. You must ensure that you abide by the conditions. You will need to apply to vary the licence if you wish to amend or remove a condition. 

A pet shop licence expires on 31 December in the year that the application is made or, if requested by the applicant, the licence may take effect from the start of the following year and expire at the end of that year. You must ensure that the licence is renewed by 1 January annually if you wish to continue running the business.  

Offences and penalties

The following offences and penalties apply to the keeping of pet shops:

  • Anybody found guilty of keeping a pet shop without a licence may be subject to a fine not exceeding £500 or to three months imprisonment, or both.
  • Anybody found guilty of failing to comply with the conditions of their licences may be subject to a fine not exceeding £500 or to three months imprisonment, or both.
  • Anybody found guilty of carrying on a business of selling animals as pets in a street, road, public place or at a stall or barrow in a market may be subject to a fine not exceeding £500 or to three months imprisonment, or both.
  • Anybody found guilty of selling an animal as a pet to a person under the age of 12 may be subject to a fine not exceeding £500 or to three months imprisonment, or both.
  • Anybody found guilty of obstructing or delaying an Inspector or authorised Veterinary Surgeon or Veterinary Practitioner in the exercising of their powers of entry may be fined up to a maximum of £500.
  • If found guilty under this Act, the defendant's licence may be cancelled, and they may be disqualified from keeping a pet shop for such length of time the Court thinks fit.  

Application process

You cannot apply for a licence if you have been disqualified from any of the following at the time of your application:

  • Keeping an animal boarding establishment.
  • Keeping a pet shop under the Pet Animals Act 1951.
  • Keeping animals under the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954.
  • Owning, keeping, being involved in the keeping or being entitled to control or influence the keeping of animals, dealing in animals or transporting or being involved in the transportation of animals under the Animals Welfare Act 2006.
  • Owning, keeping, dealing in or transporting animals under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

We will aim to determine the application within four weeks of receipt (provided access has been provided to our veterinary officer) unless, in the officer's opinion, the licence should not be granted (or renewed). In such a case, the application will be considered by our Regulatory Licensing Committee. This will take place within 10 weeks of receipt of the initial application, unless the time period is extended by agreement with the applicant. 

Before setting up any business in the UK, you must ensure that it will comply with the relevant health and safety regulations.

Further information on health and safety

Fees

The fee payable for a successful application is made up of:

  • a fee of payable at the time of application
  • a fee for ongoing management and enforcement of which must be received immediately on the grant of the licence
You should note that the licence will not be issued until the remainder of the fee is received.  

Make an application

You can apply and pay online (via GOV.UK) or download and complete an application form and make a payment to us (see ways to pay).

Whichever way you choose to apply you should save a copy of the completed form for your records. 

You should note that the application process will not start until the fee is received.  

Renew or vary your licence

You can apply to:

Right of appeal

Any applicant who is refused a licence or is unhappy about a condition imposed can appeal to:

South Western Magistrates' Court
176a Lavender Hill
Battersea 
London SW11 1JU 

Complaints about a pet shop

If you have a problem with a licensed premises, you should discuss the issues informally with the premises licence holder in the first instance. In many cases they will not be aware of the problem and this will give them the opportunity to resolve the issues. 

If this does not lead to an improvement, or if your complaint related to an unlicensed premises, then you should report the matter to us.  

What to do if you have a query about your licence

If you have a query about a licence, contact us

Trade associations

Pet Industry Federation

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons