Under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, you'll need a licence to work with animals as a business.

You'll need a licence to:

  • sell animals as pets
  • provide or organise boarding for cats or dogs (including day care)
  • hire out horses
  • breed dogs
  • keep or train animals for exhibition

The legislation is designed to provide high welfare standards and levels of care for animals by promoting and ensuring that the five key needs are met:

  • need for a suitable environment
  • need for a suitable diet
  • need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns (such as exercise)
  • need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease


You can read guidance notes for licencing each activity written by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The guidance notes have further information on what's required to meet the conditions of each licence. They also provide advice on how you could achieve a higher DEFRA star rating. 

The Government has set conditions for each licence type which are the same across the county. We can't change these conditions as they are set out in the legislation.

Breeding and selling of puppies and kittens 

With effect from 1 April 2020, new legislation means that puppies and kittens can no longer be sold by a third party seller, such as a pet shop or commercial dealer, unless they have bred the animal themselves.

Anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten under 6 months should deal directly with the breeder or an animal rehoming centre.

How to apply

We can only accept your application if your premises is within Sutton.

You will need to complete the relevant application form.

You will also need to enclose:

  • a plan of the premises
  • a copy of your insurance policy
  • operating procedures
  • risk assessments (including fire)
  • infection control procedure
  • qualifications
  • training records for any other persons involved in the business

Post your completed form and supporting documents to:

London Borough of Sutton
Licensing Team
Civic Offices
St Nicholas Way

You should keep a copy of the completed form for your own records.

We recommend that you check that you have the correct permissions to use their property or premises for the business. For example, there are restrictions on running businesses in domestic Council properties.

It's important to do this before applying as the application fee is not refundable. We will carry out checks to make sure all relevant permissions, such as planning consent and housing permissions, are in place at the application stage.

Once we've received your completed application and payment, we will examine the information provided and contact you to arrange an inspection.


Details of the fees payable are available on our fees page.

All of our fees are split into two parts. The first part of the fee is payable upon application and is non refundable. The first part of the fee covers the cost of processing your application, any inspection and follow up work.

If your application is successful the second part of the fee is payable before the licence is issued. If you do pay both parts of the fee up front and your application is not successful, the part 2 fee is refundable.

You can pay online or over the phone by calling 020 8770 5000. 


All premises will be inspected before the licence is granted. This is so we can be sure the licence holder can meet the requirements of the physical environment in which the animals will be kept.

The inspector will also be looking to make sure you have specific knowledge and documents.

Specialist knowledge

You should have specialist knowledge of the animal you're caring for and a clear understanding of its needs and welfare. This would include the animals' mental and physical health, feeding, and knowledge of environmental enrichment.

You should be able to demonstrate that you have researched and followed expert guidance in order to carry out your role.


You should keep comprehensive records. These must contain all the information required by the conditions that apply to your licence.

Risk management

You should have an understanding of risks involved in caring for the animal. This includes an extensive risk assessment and written policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly. These documents should be available for the inspector to examine.

Training procedures

You should have training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them. You should also have clear evidence of good supervision of staff.

Star rating

Based on the application, and the information given to us at the inspection, we will assess the risk rating. We will award stars using a scoring method created by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Low-risk premises can attain up to 5 stars. Premises that have been assessed as higher risk can be awarded up to 4 stars. If you're not satisfied with the decision, you can make improvements to address highlighted issues and ask for a re-inspection.

A premises with a lower star rating is not necessarily a premises to avoid. There are other factors that have to be considered such as the length of time the licence holder has been operating. New businesses are likely to be assessed as slightly higher risk simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered.

We would advise that, as stated above, the scoring method is one we must use to comply with Government requirements, and the ratings given should not be seen as a recommendation by the Council.

Issuing your licence

After you've been inspected (and upon completion of any required remedial works), we aim to issue your licence with 10 working days.

Length of licence

A licence lasts for between 12 month and 26 months, depending on the star rating.

An annual fee is due each year for those licences issued for over a 12 month period.

You should apply to renew your licence 6 weeks before your current licence expires.

Public register

We are currently developing a public register of animal activity licences.

Contact the Licensing Team to check whether a particular premises or business is licensed.