3 April 2014

More than two-thirds of local authorities don’t use the guidance issued by their own industry body to ensure consistent pet shop licensing, according to a new report from the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association.

OATA has made Freedom of Information requests to nearly 400 local councils across the UK to find out how they deal with the licensing of pet shops. These have revealed:

  • Less than 28% of councils use the 2013 Model Guidelines for Pet Vending Licensing issued by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
  • Annual charges vary enormously for an inspection – from the cheapest fee of £20 to the highest charge of £462 (average fee is £131.86)
  • Pet shop licence inspection visits are carried out by a plethora of staff, from dog wardens to vets, environmental health officers and licensing officers who cover pubs and restaurants

“Our latest report highlights yet again the enormous variety in pet shop licensing across the UK and our aim is to fight for a level playing field for businesses,” said OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.

“We want a common, coherent and consistent approach to pet shop licensing that makes sure no-one can trade without demonstrating good welfare standards and that they’re a bona-fide business. Clearly we don’t have that at the moment.

“We worked with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health to produce its excellent guidance for EHOs, which has been out for nearly a year now. Yet less than a third of councils are using it, which is very disappointing because if they did our concerns about a level playing field would largely be met.

“We’ve already forwarded this report to Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare, Tracey Crouch MP who is Chair of the Pet Advisory Group and Shadow DEFRA Minister Huw Irranca-Davies. We’ll also make sure it’s sent to the House of Commons Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, representatives of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and to Tim Morris of the Animal Health and Welfare Board England. Hopefully in this way we can continue the political pressure to make pet shop licensing more consistent across the country.”

OATA members have made complaints to the trade association about the rise in ‘garden shed’ traders who often operate without complying with the same rules as high street businesses. So OATA also asked councils about how they establish the pet shop licence is being given to a bona-fide enterprise. It found less than half checked with other council colleagues to see if the applicants had the relevant planning consents or were registered for business rates.

“Strangely we found more councils asked about public liability insurance – which doesn’t really have anything to do with them – than about planning consent or business rates, which do. And we found nearly five percent of all pet shops licensed are in private dwellings.”

Download OATA’s report here and find information about the CIEH guidance here.

All pet shops selling vertebrates are required by the Pet Animals Act 1951 to obtain a license before they can trade. From the report, OATA estimates there are around 3,000 pet shops in the UK and 75% sell ornamental fish.