Licensing of activities involving animals: consultation response analysis

Analysis of the responses received to the public consultation, between 4 July 2023 and 26 September 2023, on the potential future licensing of a range of animal-related activities.

1. Executive Summary

This document provides a summary of the responses received to a public consultation on proposals to extend the 2021 statutory animal licensing framework to certain animal care services (dog walking, dog grooming, livery services, canine fertility businesses) and greyhound racing, and to revoke current legislation pertaining to animal boarding (Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963) and riding establishments (Riding Establishments Act 1964 and Riding Establishments Act 1970), regulating these instead under the existing licensing framework— The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 (

The Scottish Government consultation opened on 4 July 2023 and closed on 26 September 2023. You can find the consultation paper here: Licensing of activities involving animals - Scottish Government consultations - Citizen Space.

A total of 688 responses were received from businesses, organisations and individuals. Separately, 1180 campaign responses commenting on the proposals to license greyhound racing were submitted to the SG Animal Welfare mailbox.

Bar graph showing breakdown of respondents between individuals, local authorities, businesses, animal welfare organisations, professional bodies and other organisations. 592 came from individuals, 20 from local authorities, 27 from businesses, 14 from welfare organisations, 14 from professional bodies, and 21 from other organisations.

The Scottish Government would like to thank all individuals, businesses and organisations who took the time to consider and respond to this consultation. Your collective input is invaluable in helping to inform our next steps.

Overall, there was a high level of support for licensing conditions being applied to animal care activities. However, licensing greyhound racing was evenly balanced between those who were in favour and those who were not sure if it should be or not.

Respondents were in strong agreement that licensing animal care activities could:

  • Improve animal welfare.
  • Allow for the consistent application and enforcement of standards.
  • Allow businesses to operate on a level playing field.
  • Improve the wider public's perception of and trust in animal care service providers.
  • Ensure accountability when animal welfare is compromised.

Key themes

Several key themes emerged from the consultation responses leading to repetition of points and views across the questions set (that is, points raised by many respondents). Rather than repeat these themes throughout the executive summary, they have been summarised below:

Animal welfare

  • The benefits to animal welfare of any new regulations must be carefully assessed and weighted before any new licensing requirements are introduced.
  • The wider implications for animal welfare arising from new controls also need consideration to avoid unintended consequences.

Consistency of standards

  • Any new licensing requirements must be proportionate and consistently applied and enforced.
  • Any new requirements should be supported by clear and detailed guidance.
  • Fees charged by local authorities should be standardised and equitably applied across all authority areas.

Enforcement issues

  • It is recognised that there is an identified shortage of veterinarians to assist with enforcement work and undertake inspections.
  • Additional licensing requirements are likely to exacerbate an already problematic situation.
  • Local authority staff are unlikely to have the necessary expertise and knowledge to meaningfully undertake inspections and identify issues, particularly for canine fertility businesses and livery operations.

Local Authority resourcing

  • Significant budgetary pressures on local authorities means that staff are unlikely to be able to enforce any new licensing measures unless additional ring-fenced funding is provided.
  • A budget to deliver relevant training to local authority staff to allow for meaningful enforcement is needed.
  • Fees charged under the 2021 licensing framework will not cover the cost to local authorities of administration and enforcement.

An outline of the responses to each question is set out in the next part of this Executive Summary.

Part 1: Licensing of commercial dog walkers (CDWs)

Of the 439 responses to this question, 89.1% indicated support for the proposal to license commercial dog walking. Key reasons given for supporting the introduction of licensing included bringing some form of control and oversight to what is essentially an unregulated and fast-growing sector and ensure the welfare of the dogs in the care of Commercial Dog Walkers (CDWs). A significant number of respondents commented on the need to restrict the numbers of dogs being walked at any one time, although it was also recognised that setting this too low had potential to negatively impact on the income of CDWs. Many respondents were of the opinion that any licensing introduced should require CDWs to have public liability insurance. CDWs holding a canine first aid qualification was considered important by many respondents, as was a demonstrable understanding of canine behaviour.

A number of respondents, including the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC), the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust questioned whether licensing was the right approach to regulating CDWs. It was the view of these respondents that a registration scheme similar to that already adopted by a number of Scottish local authorities would be a more proportionate means of regulation. The scheme introduced by East Lothian Council was highlighted as an excellent example of such a scheme by the SAWC and several other respondents.

A number of respondents also queried the need for further regulation, stating that there was already legislation in place that, if properly enforced, would address any issues associated with CDWs.

More detailed narrative on the responses to the proposal to license CDWs, along with bullet points presenting some of the common themes/points raised by respondents to the consultation questions is provided at section 4.1.

Part 2: Licensing of dog groomers

Of the 428 responses to this question, 82.2% supported the proposal to introduce licensing for dog groomers. Key reasons given for this support included the lack of any regulatory oversight of the sector; the welfare risks to dogs when groomed by persons not suitably experienced or qualified; the need to ensure proper use and maintenance of equipment, particularly drying equipment; and the need to ensure groomers have a sound understanding of canine behaviour and canine first aid. It was also highlighted that a licensing scheme would, when necessary, make it easier for dog owners to raise concerns about the conduct of a particular groomer and allow local authorities to take proportionate action to address any such concerns.

Despite the majority support for licensing however, some respondents questioned the need for it, suggesting instead that a voluntary industry-led accreditation or registration scheme would be a more proportionate level of regulation. Respondents not convinced of the need for licensing also questioned whether the scale of the issues associated with dog groomers actually justified the imposition of licensing. It was suggested that better enforcement of existing statute would negate the need for further regulation, and that the industry essentially self-regulated as pet owners simply went elsewhere if unhappy with the service provided by any particular groomer.

More detailed narrative on the responses to the proposal to license dog groomers, along with bullet points presenting some of the common themes/points raised by respondents to the consultation questions is provided at section 4.2.

Part 3: Licensing of livery services

Of the 298 responses to this question, 80.2% supported the proposal to introduce licensing for livery service providers. Key reasons given for supporting the introduction of licensing included protecting and improving equine welfare across Scotland, improving the standard of care across the sector, ensure that those offering livery services are appropriately qualified and/or experienced and bringing transparency and accountability to a sector that is in many ways unregulated.

Despite the strong support for regulation through licensing, a number of respondents, including the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and World Horse Welfare (WHW), commented that the introduction of a livery registration scheme may be preferable to licensing. WHW commented that such a scheme could act as a precursor to full licensing at a later date.

A number of respondents raised concerns about the cost implications of licensing, and highlighted that there is already a shortage of livery provision and should the costs of compliance be too high some livery providers may simply stop offering livery services, thereby exacerbating this problem.

The majority of respondents (68.4%), including the British Horse Society, were of the opinion that licensing should apply to all livery providers, regardless of scale or type. WHW commented that this was a difficult decision to answer due to the lack of data on the type, size and number of livery facilities operating in Scotland. It was recognised that any assessment around the application of licensing should be risk based. The SAWC does not believe licensing should apply to all livery providers.

A number of respondents commented that licensing should require better contractual arrangements between horse owners and livery service providers in order to better manage conflicts between parties and deal with matters such as horse abandonment

More detailed narrative on the responses to the proposal to license livery service providers, along with bullet points presenting some of the common themes/points raised by respondents is provided at section 4.3.

Part 4: Licensing canine fertility businesses

Of the 278 responses to this question, 89%, including the BVA, supported the proposal to license canine fertility businesses. Respondents raised significant concerns about the activities of these businesses, and key reasons for supporting licensing included the lack of any meaningful regulation to control and monitor their activities; the rapid growth of the sector; the alleged links to wider criminal activity, including unlicensed/unethical puppy breeding; concerns that laypersons may be undertaking procedures that are in fact acts of veterinary surgery; and the significant risks to animal welfare.

While there was clear majority support for action to regulate, a significant number of respondents called for canine fertility businesses to be completely prohibited. It was emphasised by a number of these respondents that licensing these businesses would essentially be seen as legitimising their activities. Many respondents commented that canine fertility services should really only be available through veterinary practices.

There was strong support for licensing to require canine fertility businesses to have to employ a registered veterinary surgeon and that they be present at all times to undertake and oversee any procedures. 82.7% of respondents agreed that canine fertility businesses should be subject to annual licensing, due to the significant concerns around their activities.

Many respondents highlighted the urgent need for the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 to be updated to reflect modern veterinary practices and to make clear what constitutes acts of veterinary surgery.

More detailed narrative on the responses to the proposal to license canine fertility businesses, along with bullet points presenting some of the common themes/points raised by respondents to the consultation questions is provided at section 4.4.

Part 5: Greyhound racing

Of the 454 responses to the question should greyhound racing be licensed, 46.3% supported the proposal. 46% of respondents answered not sure. Those answering "not sure", however, did so as they don't think licensing will be enough to protect the welfare of racing greyhounds and they want to see greyhound racing phased out in Scotland. In addition, 1180 campaign respondents also called for an end to greyhound racing. A significant number of the respondents that answered "yes" or "not sure", including campaign respondents referenced the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) injury and death statistics and the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission's view that a phasing out of greyhound racing in Scotland is desirable.

The 7.7% that did not support licensing fell into two divergent groups. Some respondents that answered "no", including Scottish SPCA, Blue Cross and Dogs Trust did so because they do not believe that regulation (licensing) will be sufficient to protect the welfare of racing greyhounds – some referenced GBGB's own death and injury stats as proof of this. The GBGB, who were in the alternative "no" camp, did actually support regulatory oversight, but made the case for this to be under the GBGB's existing regulatory framework. The GBGB did not support a licensing framework independent from their own.

Those that want to see the sport continue, including the operator of Thornton greyhound track, commented that the racing that takes place in Scotland is run by enthusiasts and that the dogs being run are pets. They raised concerns about the cost of meeting new licensing requirements, stating that these could potentially lead to the closure of the last track in Scotland and end a long-standing tradition. There was a feeling among those supportive of the sport that greyhound racing is being unfairly targeted when there are many other sports involving animals that can lead to injury. Further, the point was made that the injury and death statistics associated with GBGB tracks were not relevant to the activities at Thornton due to major differences in scale and the approach to and nature of the racing taking place. It was emphasised by these respondents that greyhound racing had adapted over time, and continues to do so, in order to address concerns and that it should therefore be left to self-regulate.

More detailed narrative on the responses to the proposal to license greyhound racing, along with bullet points presenting some of the common themes/points raised by respondents to the consultation question is provided at section 4.5.

Part 6: Animal boarding (including day care)

Of the 314 responses to the question of whether existing animal boarding legislation should be revoked, with this activity regulated instead under the 2021 licensing framework, 82.5% supported the proposal. Key reasons given included the 1963 Act no longer being fit for purpose, inflexible and outdated. It was recognised that there approaches to delivering animal boarding have changed significantly since the introduction of this Act, as has our understanding of animal welfare and society's expectations, and that a new regulatory framework was needed to reflect this.

Respondents supporting the proposal recognised that licensing under the 2021 framework would improve consistency in terms of enforcement and provide local authorities with considerably more flexibility in terms of administering and enforcing licensing. It was also recognised that the more stringent checks on applicants and licence holders required by the 2021 framework should ensure that only fit and proper persons with appropriate experience and knowledge are licensed to deliver boarding services.

There were mixed views on allowing so-called franchisee type businesses under a new licensing framework. Many respondents expressed the view that persons providing animal boarding services should be trained in canine first aid and have a demonstrable understanding of canine behaviour. A number of respondents commented that where home boarding is provided, consideration should be given to assessing likely impact on neighbouring properties before any licence is issued.

The costs of complying with a more robust licensing scheme were raised by a significant number of respondents and it was noted that if costs were too high it could close down some boarding providers, which would only exacerbate existing supply and demand problems.

More detailed narrative on the responses to the proposal to revoke the 1963 Act, along with bullet points presenting some of the common themes/points raised by respondents to consultation questions is provided at section 4.6.

Part 7: Licensing of riding establishments and wider equine activities

Of the 282 responses to the question of revoking the 1964 Act and regulating instead under the 2021 licensing framework, 79.1% supported the proposal. Key reasons given for supporting the proposal included the Act is too narrow in terms of its scope and it's outdated and inflexible and no longer fit for purpose. It was felt by many, including World Horse Welfare (WHW), that the Act lacks sufficient provisions to improve and ensure the welfare of equines used in riding establishments. It was recognised that a modern regulatory framework would be able to reflect current understanding of equine physical, emotional and behavioural needs.

There was strong support (85.3%) for the proposal to extend licensing to other equine activities, with many respondents commenting that any activity where equines are used for commercial gain needed to be regulated to protect the welfare of the animals involved. It was recognised that regular transportation, handling by individuals with no understanding of equine behaviour and noisy, unfamiliar environments could cause stress and there is a need for regulatory oversight to ensure equine welfare is being prioritised and protected.

There was majority support (65.4%) for the proposal to allow licensing to be granted for periods of 1 to 3 years' duration. However, respondents made clear that any decision on licence duration needed to be made following a risk-assessment and only be an option once an operator had demonstrated consistent high-standards. It was suggested by a number of respondents that being an accredited establishment, such as a BHS Approved Centre, should be used as a determining factor when considering licence duration. Other respondents commented that 3 years was too long and that annual inspections and renewal should be required. Regardless of licence duration, many respondents, including the BVA and WHW, support retaining the requirement for an annual veterinary check as currently required under the 1964 Act.

On the question of whether there should be any exemptions from licensing for certain equine activities or businesses, 84.1% were of the opinion that there should be no exemptions. Activities highlighted for exemption by those that answered 'other' included registered equine charities and police and military horses.

More detailed narrative on the responses to the proposal to revoke the 1964 Act, along with bullet points presenting some of the common themes/points raised by respondents to consultation questions is provided at section 4.7.


With one exception, the responses received demonstrated strong overall support for the introduction of statutory licensing. At the same time, the responses present a wide a range of views on how best to proceed and highlight a number of potential challenges around the delivery of new licensing legislation. Only the proposal to license greyhound racing saw a more or less even split between those in favour of licensing and those that were unsure. The overwhelming majority of those that responded not sure, however, did so because they were not sure that licensing went far enough, and they were of the opinion that only a ban on greyhound racing could protect the welfare of racing greyhounds.

It is also clear from the consultation responses that, despite the strong support for the majority of the proposals, there are some key issues that require further consideration by the Scottish Government. Key among these are:

  • The capacity of local authorities to enforce new licensing requirements when finances and staff are already stretched. It is recognised that enforcement of existing licensing legislation is already challenging many authorities.
  • The training needs of inspectors to allow for meaningful inspection of premises, particularly for canine fertility clinics and equine related activities where specialist knowledge will be needed. It is recognised that inspection of such businesses cannot simply be a tick-box exercise.
  • Availability of veterinary expertise to assist with inspections, enforcement etc.
  • The overall impact of licensing on business operators, particularly the costs associated with compliance with new requirements.
  • Alternatives to licensing, such as registration schemes, statutory guidance or industry led accreditation schemes.
  • Potential wider impacts of licensing on access to certain services and animal welfare should operators decide that licensing is too onerous and cease operating.
  • Whether better / more robust enforcement of existing statute would address the issues associated with certain activities, negating the need for additional regulation.

Publishing consultation responses

All responses, where the respondent gave permission for their comments to be published, have been made available on the Scottish Government Citizen space website



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