The new “star rating” system for pet shops licensing came into effect from Monday 1st October 2018 under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, superceding all previous legislation. This new legislation was put in place to both provide more transparency in the pet industry, and improve animal welfare in England by putting in place more structure around the rules that need to be followed in selling all pets.

The system aims to help consumers to make better-informed decisions about the pets they buy and assists local authorities in regulating businesses that deal with animals, such as through more welfare inspections and shorter licences. The scores achieved are directly based on a combination of the business score for the current animal welfare standards, along with their level of risk (e.g. this is assessed by referring to the history of any previous licencing compliance).

Pet Shop Licence Scoring Matrix

Scoring matrix notes:

  • The scoring matrix takes into account both the animal welfare standards adopted by a business as well as their level of risk (based on elements such as past licencing compliance). This model should be used every time a licence is granted or renewed.

  • Businesses must be given a star rating, ranging from 1 star to 5 stars, based on this matrix, and the results of their inspection. The system incorporates safeguards to ensure fairness to businesses.

  • In order to use this matrix to calculate the length of the licence and associated star rating, it is necessary to address the following questions, based on the inspection and on records of past compliance:

    • Does the business meet the minimum standards?
    • Does the business meet the higher standards?
    • Is the business low or higher risk?


Does the business meet the minimum standards?

  • To obtain a licence for a single activity (e.g. selling fish), the applicant must meet the minimum standards set out in the specific Schedules to the Regulations, in addition to those in the General Schedule. All businesses should meet the minimum standards.
  • During an inspection, the inspector should assess whether or not the business is meeting each of these minimum standards. If this is the case, they will qualify for a minimum of a two-star rating


Minor failings:

  • If an existing business has a number of minor failings with regards to the minimum standards laid down in the schedules and the guidance, they should receive a risk rating score of 1 star. These minor failings should be predominantly administrative or if they are in relation to standards, they must not compromise the welfare of the animals. If animal welfare is being compromised, a licence should not be granted/renewed or, if already in place, should be suspended or revoked.


Does the business meet the higher standards?

  • For each activity, a number of higher standards have been agreed. Meeting the higher standards is optional but is the only way to gain a higher star rating. The higher standards are classified into two types: required and optional and are outlined in the relevant guidance documents for the activity in question. To qualify as meeting the higher standards, the business needs to achieve all of the required higher standards as well as a minimum of 50% of the optional higher standards. During an inspection, the inspector should assess whether or not the business meets the required number of higher standards.

  • Where a scheme utilising the UK's National Accreditation Body (UKAS) is operational, it will be operated against either the minimum or higher standards as set out in the certification scheme criteria and as agreed with UKAS as part of the accreditation process. If a business is certified by a UKAS-accredited certification body to the higher standards, they should automatically be considered as meeting these standards, unless there is significant evidence of poor animal welfare or non-compliance is identified during the inspection.


Is the business low or high risk?

  • The risk assessment is not meant to consider specific issues taken into account in the assessment of compliance with the minimum or higher standards. It does, however, require an assessment on the likelihood of satisfactory compliance being maintained in the future.

  • In considering risk, “management” covers the system as a whole. For a multi-site business, the company-wide management system and procedures are a key element of this, but local site/premises management is also important as that will influence how these systems and procedures are applied.

  • Assessments of the written procedures should be based on the principle of proportionality (i.e. correspond with the nature and size of the business). For small businesses which present lower risks, it may be sufficient that the business has in place good welfare practices, and understands and applies them.


Certification by a UKAS-accredited body:

  • Any business that is certified by a UKAS-accredited body and has three or more years of compliance history with this body should be considered low risk and receive the higher star ratings (unless there is significant evidence of poor animal welfare or non-compliance) as the welfare and risk management systems have been reviewed by an accredited third party.

  • New businesses that do not have three years of compliance history with a local authority or a UKAS-accredited body should automatically be considered high risk as they have no operational history.

  • If concerns are raised at the inspection indicating that the certified business may not be operating to the high standards or controlling risks appropriately, the inspector will address these in line with the guidance on procedural issues and the risk rating score adjusted accordingly. In addition, these concerns should be reported directly to the UKAS-accredited body so that they can also intervene and/or suspend or withdraw the business’s certification.


Frequently asked questions: The process of providing a risk rating

Q1. When should businesses be rated?

Businesses should be rated following an inspection that takes place prior to grant/renewal of the licence or a requested re-inspection. Businesses may also be re-rated following an unannounced or additional inspection (e.g. following a complaint), if major issues are highlighted that require follow up action.

Q2. When should new businesses be rated?

New businesses should be rated following their initial inspection.

Q3. What information should the local authority provide with the star rating following the inspection at which a rating was determined?

The following information should be provided in writing:

    • The star rating itself.
    • Details of why the business was rated as it was. This should include a list for any of the higher standards that the business is currently failing to meet, or a list of the minimum standards that the business is failing to meet if it is considered to be in the minor failing category.