Section 2: Summary of criteria and thresholds for licensing
Under the Regulations anyone selling animals as pets in the course of a business requires a licence.
This activity captures the following conduct:
- selling animals as pets in the course of a business,
- selling animals, with the expectation that they will be resold as pets, in the course of a business,
- keeping animals in the course of a business with a view to them being sold as pets,
- keeping animals in the course of a business with a view them being resold as pets.
The activity of selling animals as pets does not include selling or keeping animals in the course of any of the licensable activities of operating an animal welfare establishment (such as an animal sanctuary or rehoming centre), engaging in other animal rehoming activities or dog, cat or rabbit breeding (a breeding licence allows for the direct supply of animals as pets). However, if a licence holder is licenced to carry on one of those other licensable activities and carries on the activity of selling animals as pets in the course of a business outside the licenced activity, a separate licence will be required for the activity of selling animals as pets.
To determine whether a person supplying pets requires to be licensed, local authorities may consider a number of factors which must include:
- whether the person engages in the activity in order to make a profit,
- whether engaging in the activity earns the person any commission or other fee,
- the frequency of sales, and
- the number of animals kept by the person for the purposes selling them (as pets or to be resold as pets).
The criteria set out above for determining whether a person is selling animals as pets in the course of a business is not exhaustive and local authorities should use their own professional judgement and experience to decide whether a person selling pets requires to be licensed.
Other factors or situations that may need to be considered include the following:
- whether the licence holder imports, distributes and sells animals as a business,
- whether the business is registered with Companies House (some individuals operating for commercial purposes may however not be listed with Companies House),
- whether premises are open to members of the public or to other businesses where animals are available for purchase,
- whether animals are bought and then re-advertised for sale or sold within a short period of time,
- the variability in the animals traded (a wide variety of species or taxa being traded could indicate the commercial nature of the activity).
Although the frequency of sales is factor to be taken into account, a low volume of sales does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the person is not carrying on the activity in the course of a business, particularly where high prices or large profit margins are involved.
Situations likely to be outwith the scope of licensing include the following:
- the infrequent sale of a small number of surplus offspring or excess stock by an individual who breeds animals as a hobby, for pleasure, exhibition or for education, study or scientific advancement (clearly, where hobby breeders breed 3 or more litters of dogs or cats or 6 or more litters of rabbits in any 12-month period they should be licensed as a breeder),
- the private sale of an individual animal, or animals on an infrequent basis, from one individual to another for no profit.
"Pet" means an animal kept permanently, or intended to be kept permanently, by a person mainly for personal interest, companionship, ornamental purposes or a combination of such purposes. Horses and other equines are not normally considered to be pets as they are generally kept for riding or other sporting or recreational purposes.
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