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12 January 2023




Final Decision-Maker

Licensing Committee

Lead Head of Service

John Littlemore, Head of Housing & Regulatory Services

Lead Officer and Report Author

Martyn Jeynes, Community and Strategic Partnerships Manager



Wards affected



Executive Summary

In October 2018 new animal welfare regulations were introduced in England.  The introduction of the legislation led to a wide range of changes which have impacted not only on licensable businesses but on the council’s service delivery itself. The most significant changes included: 

·         standardisation and improvements to the minimal animal welfare standards

·         broader scope to capture licensable activities, not just establishments

·         a risk rated assessment, rewarding those establishments with higher welfare standards with longer licence periods

·         Improved enforcement powers to ensure compliance

·         Guidance on setting appropriate fees to resource the new requirements

·         A requirement to train our Inspectors to a new national standard


This report provides members with an update on how the legislation has changed the licensing portfolio in Maidstone, how the work of the team ensures compliance and supports businesses in remaining compliant with current guidance, and proposed fee structure to better reflect the real cost of a regime and supports our regulatory function, including enforcement against those who flout the law. 


Purpose of Report





This report makes the following recommendations to this Committee:

1.   To note and acknowledge the work undertaken to improve animal welfare standards to date

2.   To agree the proposed fee structure, produced in accordance with the guidance provided by DEFRA effective from 1 April 2023.






Licensing Committee









Impact on Corporate Priorities

The four Strategic Plan objectives are:


·         Embracing Growth and Enabling Infrastructure

·         Safe, Clean and Green

·         Homes and Communities

·         A Thriving Place


We do not expect the recommendations will by themselves materially affect achievement of corporate priorities.  However, they will support the Council’s overall achievement of its aims as set out in section 3 [preferred alternative].  Animals provide a great deal of enjoyment and enrich the lives of those who own or use them for leisure purposes.  This in itself generates a thriving business sector that must be regulated to ensure those businesses operate at the required standards and protect the welfare of the animals in their care.

John Littlemore, Head of Housing & Regulatory Services



Cross Cutting Objectives

The report recommendation(s) will not impair the achievement of the cross-cutting objectives.


John Littlemore, Head of Housing & Regulatory Services

Risk Management

Already covered in the risk section under section 5 of the report


John Littlemore, Head of Housing & Regulatory Services


As detailed within the body of the report, the fee structure has been designed to ensure that the costs associated with the legislation are accounted for as far as reasonably possible without making the fees unreasonable for businesses.  As part of a regulatory service, it can be difficult to predict the costs involved in enforcement, but this report and the fee structure have been informed by relevant experience and sharing of best practice and will be kept under review.


John Littlemore, Head of Housing & Regulatory Services


Our animal welfare specialist has been designated as an Inspector in accordance with the Act having undergone the necessary level 3 training.  Other officers will be utilised where necessary to ensure the service is delivered and to build a level of resilience should our inspector be absent for any period. This includes the recent introduction of a new assistant to support our inspector.

John Littlemore, Head of Housing & Regulatory Services




Legal implications for regulation of animal activities are set out in the relevant legislation and the associated guidance.  It may be necessary to undertake enforcement work and legal services may be engaged to support this where court action is necessary. 


Should parts of industry believe the Authority’s fees are at a level which is greater than the costs of the statutory functions then it would be open to them to undertake judicial review proceedings. Should this arise, the authority would need to evidence how it arrived at the fee levels to demonstrate that they have been calculated on a

cost recovery basis only.

Interim Team Leader (Contentious and Corporate Governance)

Privacy and Data Protection

No specific issues relating to the implementation of the legislation with regard to persons of protected characteristics have been identified.

Policy and Information Team


The recommendations do not propose a change in service therefore will not require an equalities impact assessment

Equalities & Communities Officer

Public Health



We recognise that the recommendations will not negatively impact on population health or that of individuals.

John Littlemore, Head of Housing & Regulatory Services

Crime and Disorder

As a growing sector, particularly the desire to have “designer dog breeds” it is important to ensure that consumers are protected against those who do not have the welfare of their animals and their customers in mind when conducting their business.  Illegal animal related businesses put consumers and animals at risk, and we will work with partners and customers to drive down illegal businesses in this sector.


John Littlemore, Head of Housing & Regulatory Services





John Littlemore, Head of Housing & Regulatory Services



Biodiversity and Climate Change

The implications of this report on biodiversity and climate change have been considered and are there are no implications on biodiversity and climate change.


Biodiversity and Climate Change Officer





Licensing of Animal Activities in Maidstone 



2.1     The functions related to Animal Welfare Licensing are carried out by the Council’s Community Protection Team, rather than Maidstone’s Licensing Team. Since the changes in regulation for animal-related activities were introduced in October 2018, the Community Protection Team (CPT) has been working with local businesses to ensure they understand and adopt the requirements of the new regime. The CPT’s Animal Welfare specialist, working alongside CPT colleagues, officers from the Licensing Partnership and local vets, has sought to regulate businesses in Maidstone in relation to:

·        Selling animals as pets

·        Providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs

·        Hiring out horses

·        Breeding dogs

·        Keeping or training animals for exhibition


2.2     In addition to the amended business types, the team also regulate two further licensable activities. 

·        Keeping a dangerous wild animal

·        Operating a zoo


2.3     The changes in legislation led to some businesses that were previously out of scope, now needing to be licensed.  Appendix 1 provides a breakdown of the licences issued in Maidstone in comparison between the old and new regulations.  Prior to October 2018 the CPT issued 33 licences across these areas.  Under the new regulations we have seen a 70% increase (56 licences issued) in the number of businesses being regulated.  This is set to rise to 100% (66 licences issued) as there are currently businesses known to the CPT that have or will be making an application in the next six months.  


Improving Animal Welfare for Licenced Activities


2.4     The primary purpose of the changes in the regime was to improve standards across the animal activity sector.  Extensive guidance is provided for all aspects of animal care within these businesses, which led to some businesses having to make significant changes to their business practices. It has also led to some challenges in ensuring businesses fully understand the extent of the requirements. 


2.5     This has been further compounded by changes in the guidance which has in some cases, moved established standards mid-license period, leading to difficult conversations and challenging inspections. 


2.6     The new regime continues to require significantly more resources than the previous regime.  This is because of significant increases in paperwork now required from the businesses, ensuring they can evidence the practices required to protect the animals in their care, and increased levels of scrutiny to ensure compliance on inspection.  This is further reflected in the average time taken by our qualified Animal Welfare Inspector to undertake pre-inspection preparation and the site inspections under the two regimes:



In 2017-18 (under old regulations, before October 2018)

Since 2018 (under new regulations)

Pre-inspection research and paperwork checks

30 minutes

4 – 5 hours

Average Inspection time

30-60 minutes

4 – 6 hours


2.7     The legislation uses a risk matrix (2.8), which allows licenses to be issued for up to three years based on the risk rating of the business and the standard of care they offer. The risk ratings for businesses are defined as: 


·        Low risk

Any business that is certified by a UKAS-accredited body and has one or more years of compliance history should be considered low risk. This is because the welfare and risk management systems have been reviewed by an accredited third party. A new licence holder will become low risk once they have achieved at least one year of animal licensing compliance with Maidstone Borough Council and no complaints have been substantiated against them.


·        High risk

Businesses must be considered high risk if there is evidence of poor animal welfare or non-compliance.  New applicants that do not have one year of compliance history with a local authority or a UKAS-accredited body will be automatically rated as high risk. 


2.8     The risk matrix is set out as follows:



2.9     Achieving the higher standards has seen businesses improving their animal husbandry techniques, producing detailed procedural documentation and upgrading their facilities, all of which assures a better standard of care.


2.10  Appendix 2 shows the ratings for Maidstone and the continuing improvement of standards across our licenced businesses with 91% achieving a star rating of 3 or above.  This reflects not only the standard of our businesses, but the support provided by the service.   




Continuous development and service evolution


2.11  The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 brought the most significant changes in regulation decades.  Whilst many businesses were well equipped to deal with the changes, many have had a difficult journey.  Many businesses and local authorities across the country underestimated the implications of the new regime.


2.12  Continued challenges by businesses and industry experts against the government’s guidance has seen a number of changes made, some of which have been significant. This has been a source of frustration for businesses and officers alike and has led some difficult conversations with re-applicants whose star ratings have had to be adjusted to meet the new criteria. 


2.13  This uncertainty and changing standards make the continued improvements shown in Appendix 2 even more impressive. 


2.14  The volume of licences, the wider remit of the CPT and the ongoing revision to the guidance has meant there have been challenges in committing the resources necessary to ensure the best service for our licensees.  As shown in 2.6, the resources required to achieve these results has been significant and some activities have required significantly more officer time than we had anticipated.  A recent uplift in funding has enabled the Community Protection Team to appoint an Assistant Officer to work with the Animal Welfare Inspector, a Community Protection Officer who is both qualified and authorised as an animal welfare specialist. 


2.15  Work is currently being undertaken to make inspections more efficient and to improve the service overall.  Developments currently being worked on include but are not limited to:


·        Improved web content & support for new businesses looking at starting or moving a business to Maidstone

·        A chargeable pre-app advice service to ensure applications can be processed more efficiently

·        An improved CRM system and application process, providing live application progress reports

·        A new social media channel to cover all things animal related, providing advice and best practice and encouraging people to report issues direct to the team






2.16  Whilst there have been some challenging inspections and some businesses have been disappointed with their star rating, our rigorous and documented processes have meant that none of the licences issued by the CPT have been formally challenged.  This provides significant reassurance to higher standard businesses that their 4–5-star rating is not only earned but protected. 


2.17  The introduction of tighter regulation around the selling of puppies was designed to cut down on the illegal selling of puppies, by ensuring puppy adverts carry a licence number from a local authority.  This means that anyone who generates more than £1000 in income from selling puppies and who breeds three litters or more in a 12-month period is required to be licenced.  This ensures that breeding bitches are protected from over breeding and their welfare is maintained to an acceptable standard throughout. 


2.18  As a result of this regulation, we have seen a 200% increase in the number of breeding businesses licenced with the Authority.  This has been driven by significant increases in puppy sales during and since the pandemic and the recent introduction of “Lucy’s Law”, which outlaws third party selling of puppies, forcing those using “friends” to sell their puppies, to obtain a licence.  However, this is also an area where people are still exploiting the legislation with puppy farming and nationwide puppy farming rings known to be active in Kent. 


2.19  Significant increases in the cost of puppies have been driven by demand, particularly during the pandemic. Whilst prices have fallen, they are not back to pre-COVID prices. Cost is very dependent on breed. For example, American XL bullies have soared in popularity and each puppy will sell for £4-5K. Miniature Dachshunds are around £3-4K each. This is also an area where regulation has significant challenges as breeding often occurs in residential properties and information regarding puppies for sale requires extensive reconnaissance of social media and advertising sites.  The opportunistic nature of being able to breed dogs often means that these businesses require a disproportionate amount of resource to ensure the welfare of the breeding bitch and her puppies, this is reflected in the increased cost for amateur/first time breeders in the proposed fees.  It is hoped this will also serve as a deterrent to those thinking that breeding dogs is an opportunity to make money. 

















Enforcement challenges


2.20  Whilst priority is given to processing and regulating those businesses that apply for a license, an important but difficult aspect to this area of work is the enforcement. Enforcement not only ensures the appropriate welfare standards are being met, but also ensures those businesses who do comply with the regulations are not disadvantaged by those who circumnavigate or ignore the regulations. 






2.21  Where animal welfare standards are not being met by a licenced establishment or by the keeper of an animal, the Animal Welfare Officer has specific powers to serve improvement notices against those responsible.  Failure to comply with the requirements of a notice in an offence and can lead to a prosecution. This power is assigned in statute to a Local Authority appointed Animal Welfare Inspector or a Police Constable. Where someone is found to undertaking a licensable activity without a license, they can be prosecuted for doing so. 



2.22  As criminal offences, the burden of proof required to obtain a conviction is to prove the offence “beyond all reasonable doubt”.  Knowing or suspecting that someone is acting illegally is not sufficient to bring about a successful prosecution.  Irrefutable evidence is required to secure a conviction. As an example, searches on social media and selling sites can disclose/suggest that businesses or individuals are operating illegally in the area. But evidence is required to be able to act. Therefore, successful enforcement relies on the development of intelligence and/or resource intensive surveillance and inspections, including the use of warrants to secure the necessary evidence. It isn’t what the officer knows, but what the officer can evidence and prove that is integral to successful enforcement. 


2.23  Undertaking enforcement activities is an important element of any licensing regime and is funded through the fees as set out below.   


Service costs and proposed fees


2.24  As with other areas of licensing, Local Authorities are able to charge for their reasonable costs in undertaking the regulatory function.   This fee structure was updated in 2019 to reflect what had been learnt in the first year.  Having not updated the fees since 2019, the proposed fees for April 2023 onwards, provided in Appendix 3, reflect the continued learning of the team and how the sector has changed as a result of the new legislation and other factors. 


2.25  Explained in more detail below, the proposed fee structure ensures that those businesses who present the highest risk and the lowest standards of animal care will be required to pay higher fees than established businesses, who demonstrate higher standards of animal care. 


2.26  Businesses can reduce their long-term fees by working to ensure they build a positive reputation (low risk) and implement the higher standards of care before their renewal, allowing their licence period to extend to up to 3 years. This achieving a 3-year licence represents a significant saving on the annual fees required before October 2018 and increases animal welfare standards across the sector as a result. 


2.27  Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the fees reflect the resources required, incorporating what we know to be the requirements of the new legislation.  The fee is broken down into two parts:


·      Part A- Application/renewal assessment and inspection

o  costs of processing the application and making the assessment

o  uses the average time taken to review any application, adjusted based on the size and nature of the business (i.e., resources needed to assess)

o  payable regardless of whether the application is successful or not

o  includes:

§  reviewing all submitted documentation (several detailed documents including procedure notes and animal welfare speciation’s specific to the species/breed of animal/activity)

§  site inspection to assess animal welfare, animal husbandry and animal housing against prescribed standards

§  assessment report and licence approval/refusal as appropriate


·      Part B- Licenced establishment costs

o  reflects the costs of the functions distributed over all licenced businesses (c 60 businesses)

o  only payable for successful applications, paid in advance, but refunded as appropriate

o  Part B accounts for c40% of fees for new application

o  includes ongoing costs for the business and sector in general:

§  enforcement against unlicenced activity

§  announced and unannounced visits during licence period (required by law)


2.28  The process by which the proposed fees have been calculated is fully auditable and takes into account evidenced learning from delivering the service in the last 2 years.  Should a business feel the fees are disproportionate they may seek to challenge this by way of a judicial review. We are confident that we could demonstrate that the fees have been calculated on a cost of recovery basis only, in accordance with the leading case law.  Further justification for the fee setting is provided in section 4.











2.29  Although not captured in the new legislation, we have also included a proposed fee for Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA), those animals considered to be wild, dangerous or exotic.  These are species listed by DEFRA as needing specific licensing requirements, often due to the risk they pose if not handled or cared for appropriately.  These include:

o  wild cats

o  primates

o  wild dogs, e.g. wolves

o  certain pigs, e.g. wild boar

o  marsupials

o  highly venomous invertebrates, e.g. black widows and scorpions

o  crocodilians


2.30  In setting the fee for DWAs officers have proposed a heavily discounted fee.  Unlike other licences, these are not businesses. These are private collectors and therefore do not generate an income from their animal(s).  The low fee also ensures those who bring or care for a DWA in our borough are not discouraged from ensuring that the animal is known to us, and we can assure the appropriate precautions and care regimes are in place.  Given the nature of these animals, the actual cost recharged as a fee would likely discourage people from declaring their animal, but the nature of these animals means that it might not discourage them from obtaining the animal without declaring it.  As an example, we were previously asked whether someone could keep Cayman Crocodiles in their bathtub. Appropriate advice was given, and the enquirer reassessed their pet purchasing plans.  


2.31  To further improve the service, we are proposing to introduce a pre-applications advice fee.  This will allow the CPT to provide expert advice to those looking to set up a new business or expand their existing business.  This would ensure applications stay within the estimated costings, reducing some of the costly “handholding” currently necessary to support under prepared or potentially problematic businesses. This is an area where costs are not presently recovered with our inspector and her assistant spending considerable time answering initial enquiries and follow-up questions.   





3.1     Option 1: Do nothing – Continue to use the existing fee structure. Whilst it would be feasible to continue using the existing fees, the new fees have been formulated to reflect the work actually required to issue a licence.  Reg 13 (2) of the Act makes statutory requirement for fees not to exceed reasonable costs of various matters set out. We would still need to undertake the work to regulate businesses and any shortfall would need to come from the public purse.  We also need to introduce new fees for pre-application and improved fees for variations, which cannot be offered without an agreed fee. 


3.2     Option 2: Introduce the new fee structure to support the continued development of the Animal Licensing Regime. The new fees reflect the resource actually required to continue to deliver the improved levels of Animal Welfare in licensed activities.  The new fee structure will not only allow for continued high levels of support for businesses but will also allow officers to pursue those operating without a licence.

3.3     Option 3: Introduce the new fees, discounted to 80% until January 2024.  The costs of this work are recoverable and there is no way to reduce our actual costs without putting the welfare of animals at risk.  Introducing 80% of fees until January 2024 will only benefit new businesses, which present the highest risk, or those higher risk establishments that were issued with a 1–2-year licence in the last 24 months. There will also be no benefit to the 29 businesses whose licences will be renewed in 2024 or 2025.  This option would also mean the shortfall in service costs will need to be funded from our existing service budget, which would need to be protected to ensure statutory functions remain deliverable across our remit.   80% of the proposed increase would also be a reduction of fees in some areas, which would again not benefit existing businesses who paid more for their licence in the last 24 months. 





4.1     The preferred option is Option 2 as described in 3.2. 


4.2     As a service we recognise that, as with any business, there are challenges in the current economy with everyday costs rising.  As a service we face similar pressures with increased pressures on service costs putting pressure on service levels and ultimately the resources available to deliver this statutory service. We understand the pressure that introducing new fees puts put on the committee and its members, and we have considered the fee increases recommended very carefully, providing the committee evidence that reflects:

·         Resourcing the service and added value

·         The animal licensing market

·         Benchmarking against comparable services


Resourcing the service and added value


4.3     As outlined in the previous section, the last year has seen further increases in the number of licenced animal activities in the borough, which is understood to be significantly higher than in neighbouring authorities:








Tonbridge and Malling


Tunbridge Wells


(*rising to 66 in the next 6 months)


4.1     As a result, we have had to reallocate further resources from the Community Protection Team to meet demand, introducing a new assistant to support the delivery of animal licensing and other animal related matters, including, but not limited to, animal welfare, dangerous/nuisance dogs, straying dogs and dog fouling.  The additional resource has also allowed us to undertake some additional enforcement work and to commence a long overdue transformation project to make the animal welfare process significantly more efficient and customer friendly.  The fees will be reviewed again in 2025 and any efficiencies gained through the transformation project will incorporated in any changes identified.  


4.4     The most significant increase in fees is for new applications.  Analysis of the time taken to assess new businesses has shown a need to invest more resource into these businesses because of the time taken to complete the assessment and review their paperwork.  The pre-application will help minimise some of the more time-consuming applications we have dealt with, where a disproportionate amount of support and consultation has been needed, but not chargeable. 


4.5     Increases in the fees for selling of animals, performing animals, riding schools and breeding have been driven by the need to undertake assessments of the animals in the care of the business themselves.  In the other animal activities, the focus is largely on the housing and the processes, but additional checks are needed for the welfare of, for example, the individual horses and their riding tack. 


The animal licensing market


4.6     Most of our existing businesses have been able to achieve more than 3-stars, which means their licences have been issued for two or three years.  With fees only payable at application and renewal, most businesses are still paying less per year than they were under the previous fee structure shown below: 


Licensable Activity

2018 Fee Range

2023/24 Eqv annual cost (2 to 3yr licence)

Boarding Kennels



Boarding Cattery



Pet shops



Riding establishments  


£228 -£373

Breeding establishments 




4.7     These businesses are being rewarded for being low risk and having a higher standard of animal welfare and the proposed changes to fees will not affect 29 businesses who have been issued licences in the last 12 months until they renew their licence in 2024 or 2025.  The new fees will be communicated to all licensees as soon as possible so that they can incorporate them into their financial forecasting.  The average increase for a new application is £186 and only £70 for a renewal application. 


4.8     The “proposed cost per day” shown in 4.10 are based on a new business (high risk) who achieves 1 star (minimum welfare standards).  Renewals and higher star ratings will reduce this daily cost to less than £1 a day, representing excellent value for money given their expected annual income. 








4.9     Research of the businesses licenced in Maidstone show the incomes for these businesses are significantly higher than the £1000 minimum threshold set in the regulations.  The charges for services offered by businesses in Maidstone are outlined below:




Proposed cost of licence (new application) (per day)

Cat Boarding (Up to 50 cats)

£10 - £18 per cat per day


Dog Boarding (Up to 50 dogs)

£15 - £30 per dog per day/night


Dog Home Boarding (up to 4 dogs)

£25- £30 per dog per day/night


Dog Breeding (selling puppies)

Up to 10 breeding bitches 

£2000 - £3500 per Puppy (Avg. 5-6 puppies per litter, up to 2 litters a year)


Dog Day Care (up to 4 dogs)

£30 per dog per day


Horse Hiring (riding lessons): 

More than 11+ horses       

Adults £25-£545 per hour




4.10  Also proposed in the new fees are two levels of pre-application fee and variation fees to incorporate whether a visit is requested/needed respectively. This will ensure the service remains deliverable, the variation fee in particular allowing customers the opportunity to make changes to their licence, without the need to re-apply.


4.11  When reviewing Appendix 3, Members are reminded that businesses with a 5-star licence will save considerably over the length of their license period and the objective of the legislation is to encourage increase animal welfare standards.  The most significant increases are for new applications.  This reflects the complicated nature of assessing of an establishment with little or no local history for the first time.  These establishments are also required to pay for a veterinary inspection.  The lives and welfare of animals are being assessed in these new businesses and the additional expense reflects the need to do everything we can to safeguard animals in our borough. 


Benchmarking against comparable services


4.12  The proposed fee structure has been generated in accordance with the guidance provided, which itself was based on the responses made to the initial consultation and work undertaken by DEFRA when originally drafting the legislation.  Similar structures have been adopted by other Kent authorities but will vary based on each LA’s officer costs. Appendix 4 provides a breakdown of the fees charged across Kent and our CIPFA neighbouring authorities.  Our fees are comparable and reflective of the costs incurred in providing the service.    




5.       RISK

5.1    The risks associated with this proposal, including the risks if the Council does not act as recommended, have been considered in line with the Council’s Risk Management Framework. We are satisfied that the risks associated are within the Council’s risk appetite and will be managed as per the Policy.




6.1     The fees set out in Appendix 3 are not subject to a statutory consultation period as they are calculated based on the resources required to provide the service on a cost recovery basis. 


6.2      As with the previous increase in 2019, the annual cost of a licence for most businesses will be less than under the previous regime and has not deterred new businesses applying for licenses since their introduction. 


6.3     The fees will be reviewed again in 2025 and any efficiencies gained through the transformation project will incorporated in any changes identified.  





7.1     The fees will be charged with respect to new and renewal applications from 1st April 2023.  All existing customers will be sent information regarding the fees to ensure they can incorporate them into any financial forecasting. 






The following documents are to be published with this report and form part of the report:

·         Appendix 1: Licenced Animal Activities in Maidstone

·         Appendix 2: Animal Activity Star Ratings

·         Appendix 3: Proposed fees for Animal Licensing Activities 2023/2024

·         Appendix 4: Benchmarking fees across Kent and from our CIPFA nearest neighbours