The RSPCA recognises the importance of good practice and procedure being developed by local authorities when licensing animal establishments. The licensing of establishments is essential to animal welfare; from service delivery and dealing with complaints to conditions made as part of the licence issued.

In addition to sharing and rewarding good practice, it is hoped the Animal Establishments Licensing award will raise awareness within communities of this important function and the commitment demonstrated by those delivering the service every day. The Footprint was developed after discussions with local authority officers, with input from the RSPCA’s science teams.

Entry criteria

The aim of this Footprint is to encourage local authorities to consider all factors and options available to them as the licensing body to encourage good practice in animal husbandry at establishments in their jurisdiction, and to apply good animal welfare standards through conditions, training and handling of complaints. It also aims to encourage local authorities to look at this important and often undervalued service, and address any resource and service issues that may help them to meet the Footprint criteria in the future.

The Animal Establishments Licensing Footprint is open to all local authorities in England and Wales.

Evidence of
  • A clear policy on how to license animal activity.
    • This should ensure there is a consistent policy on what is licensable activity, and what the procedures for implementing the licence will be.
  • A clear policy on how to deal with complaints from members of the public about licensed animal activity.
    • This policy should identify how complaints are dealt with to ensure animals that may be at risk can be assessed, and how local authorities will work with establishments and individuals to improve where necessary.
  • Clear procedures to ensure inspections are carried out on time, with the required contingent of people.
  • A list of experts, for example vets, behaviour experts and animal welfare organisations that can be consulted for advice on specific requirements, which can be made available to licensing officers.
    • It is not expected that every licensing officer will have a complete understanding of each animal species and their behaviour. A list of experts with the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience should be available for local authority officers to turn to should extra advice be needed.
  • A clear training procedure for licensing officers to ensure they can deliver their duties competently and have an understanding of the relevant legal standards and best practice (currently provided by the requirements of the Model Licence Conditions (MLCs)) and how they dovetail with the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
    • Evidence of this criterion does not require the local authority to adopt the AWA, however evidence of training in performing duties specifically related to animal establishments should be evidenced. Local authorities should note that, in England, the MLCs will be superseded in October this year by The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.
  • Pet vendors only: demonstrate steps taken to ensure vendors only sell species they are equipped and sufficiently knowledgeable to care for. Stocking density should also be specified. Local authorities should also take steps to ensure that new species/groups are not added without prior consultation and inspection.
    • This should safeguard against pet shops expanding to stock species/numbers that are outside their current facilities and/or staff expertise.
  • Pet vendors and dog breeding establishments: a specification on the licence that vendors must make appropriate care information available free of charge to customers for all species on sale prior to sale.
    • This should provide customers with good quality, relevant information to assist them when deciding if they are able to provide for the welfare needs of an animal and help them meet those needs should they purchase the animal.
All of Bronze, plus evidence of
  • Adoption by the local authority of the most up-to-date Model Licence Conditions (MLCs) for dog breeding establishments and the associated Breeding Regulations and Associated Guidance for Wales.
    • The MLCs have recently been reviewed and updated to include the latest understanding of animal welfare standards. A local authority that adopts the MLCs should encourage establishments in their jurisdiction to follow them. Local authorities should note that, in England, the MLCs will be superseded in October this year by The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.
  • Active promotion, through council website and leaflets, of microchipping, neutering and the duty of care under section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
    • The provision of easily accessible information plays an important part in preventing welfare issues arising due to ignorance, including specific information on the legal requirement for microchipping puppies.
  • Further training for licensing officers on the socialisation and behavioural needs of puppies and dogs at breeding establishments.
    • Licensing officers should have an understanding of socialisation and behavioural needs, and of how this knowledge can be applied. This should improve the welfare of dogs and puppies while at breeding establishments, and could help prevent future behaviour problems.
All of Bronze and Silver, plus evidence of
  • The recognition that primates are not suitable companion animals, as their welfare needs cannot be met in a domestic environment, in the form of the adoption of a policy that recommends primates should not be kept or sold by pet vendors within the local authority area.
    • It is recognised in Defra’s Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates that primates should not generally be kept in domestic living spaces. Government has expressed the view that it is not legal under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to keep primates as pets.
  • Pet vendors only: a maximum time specified on licences for holding animals in pet shops (as this is meant to be temporary) and a written policy on how to deal with animals that exceed that time, which ensures a good level of welfare.
    • For example: a list of prompt questions that forms the basis of a discussion with a customer, such as if there are any young children in the family, or how many hours at a time a puppy will be left alone.
  • Pet vendors only: a clear written procedure for ensuring pet vendors provide for the needs of animals kept for longer than the expected short, temporary, time-period.
    • This should ensure that animals don’t spend long periods with pet vendors (standards in Model Licensing Conditions are for short-term care only) or, if they do, standards ensure that the needs of animals are met in longer-term care.
  • A clear written procedure for taking a prosecution forward, with examples if possible.
    • A policy recognising how enforcement will take place should be covered by an enforcement protocol and abide by the regulators code.
  • The recognition that standards higher than the minimum required can be prescribed and enforced, and application of the same.
    • This will ensure that licensing policies at the local authority can adapt to include the latest advances in the understanding of animal welfare.

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