An animal trades insurance specialist has said dog daycare and home boarding businesses across England are worried for their livelihoods because of new legislation.
Andrew Ball, of animal-related business insurance specialist Cliverton, welcomed new government guidelines to streamline and modernise existing licensing controls for businesses that work with animals but said some changes meant smaller operations could struggle to survive.
The majority of licences under the old system expired in the new year but some business owners are “still confused” about how the regulations will impact them.
He said the introduction of a new star-rating system and differing interpretation of the law by local authorities has “compounded business owners’ concerns”. Dog daycare and home boarding businesses have called for more clarity and amendments to be made to the “contradictory” regulations.
A petition was launched by business owners, and since then, Defra have made some changes to the guidance notes, including allowing pets in daycare to be walked off the lead “with the owner’s consent”.
In response to the petition, which has reached almost 20,000 signatures, Defra said it would continue to work closely with key stakeholders to ensure the licensing requirements were “clear and consistent”.
The body said it examined the specific areas of the guidance that people have queried, to provide further clarity and to help improve the understanding among both local authorities and businesses.
Ball said: “Whilst an update to the animal welfare regulations are something that the industry certainly needs, from a safeguarding point of view, the changes may negatively impact some providers and users of dog day care and home boarding services.
“This is exacerbated by the rise in licensing fees, which are set by each council and vary significantly across the country. So, small business owners are not only facing a drop in income, but also a postcode lottery which could see them pay hundreds of pounds more in fees than their peers in different boroughs.”
He added: “It is positive that Defra are listening to the concerns of these business owners and hopefully local authority interpretation of the law will be more uniform going forward. However, uncertainty remains for many business owners, who anxiously await the inspector’s visit who will determine if they meet the new standard. Only time will tell.”
The Animal Welfare (Licencing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 came into effect on October 1.