Home Dog Boarding Licensing | What why when and how?! | Wagging Tails

Blog: Home Dog Boarding Licensing

Hilary Coates, Wagging Tails Swindon
Sunday, January 14, 2018

Hilary Coates of Wagging Tails Swindon dog boarding franchise in Wiltshire provides an overview of the licensing requirements for home dog boarding in the UK. 

Licensing – why is it so important?

All our Dog Carers at Wagging Tails are licensed by their local Council, if that Council requires a license for home dog boarding. I am very often asked by potential carers why it’s necessary and the answer is simple – IT IS A LEGAL REQUIREMENT. You would expect your childminder to be licensed and inspected and caring for someone's dog, another important family member, is no different.

The councils I work with currently run their licenses annually from January 1st to December 31st so now seems to be an appropriate time to provide some information about the home dog boarding licensing and how it works. 

Why are home dog boarders expected to be licensed?

Put simply and to reiterate what I have written above, IT IS A LEGAL REQUIREMENT. For many years, the provision of boarding for dogs was either via a kennel or leaving your dog with friends and family, with nothing in between. The Animal Boarding Establishment Act was passed in 1963 to regulate the way in which kennels are managed and to ensure that they are not overcrowded. With home boarding becoming more and more popular in recent years the licensing has been adapted in order to regulate this service and the majority of locations in the UK now require home boarders to obtain a license to provide this service. 

Swindon Borough Council Home dog boarding licenseHome dog boarding has become far more popular in recent times largely through what we call mass boarders; individuals who board many dogs from different families, effectively using their home as a kennel. This type of service clearly needs to be regulated to ensure the welfare of the dogs being cared for. The license required to provide this service is likely to stipulate how many dogs the boarder is allowed to look after on their premises and outline measures for dogs from different families to be socialsed prior to boarding. 

 What things does the licence cover?

A home dog boarding licence will cover the safety and security of the premises, indoors and outdoors, as well as the provision of paperwork, keeping a register of dogs boarding, the information gathered at the booking (vaccinations, microchip number), ages of any children at the premises, the insurance of the boarder & their experience with dogs – these are the most important aspects.

In the majority of cases an isolation room is needed to keep sick dogs away from others to ensure that any illness doesn’t spread. The Council officer must be confident that  proper plans are in place to separate dogs if necessary and this is another reason for restricting how many dogs can safely board on a particular premises.

Is every home dog boarder licensed?

In most Council areas, anyone who boards dogs must be licensed. Unfortunately there are people who start up a dog care business without knowing what legalities are required. Sadly there are also some individuals offering home boarding who actively avoid licencing as they know that they are unlikely to receive a license or, more commonly, do not wish to pay and be restricted by the number of dogs they can board.

In the instance of individuals, companies and agencies offering hosts, carers or "borrowers" to provide care for owners' dogs you would assume that they are very thorough in how they take these people on; physically vetting the prospective home boarder, inspecting their homes, ensuring that they are experienced with dogs and that they are licensed to provide a boarding service would all seem to be obvious. Sadly that is not always the case. There are a number of providers offering dog hosts, carers or "borrowers" who have not been inspected or licensed and shockingly in some cases the people they are suggesting to look after your dogs have no experience of ever owning a dog and just want to try it out! 

As a final note not having a license does have the added issue of potentially invalidating a home dog boarder's insurance policy.

How can I tell if someone is licensed?

Many Councils now produce lists of licensed facilities in their areas, some of them are available on their website whilst others need to be requested by phone or email. That really should be your first port of call. Some Councils also insist on businesses offering Day Care having a licence, so again, check that detail.

There is one website, Find Pet Boarding, where the administrator actively checks licences for any boarders advertising on her site and puts a "tick" against those providers who have a license. However just because someone doesn’t have that tick doesn’t mean they aren’t licensed, they may be late getting their information across, but it should be easy for you to cross reference with the Council list.

When visiting your chosen home boarder (or kennel) - something we consider a must at Wagging Tails - ask to see a copy of their license. If they are not able to show you or become evasive this should raise alarm bells. 

Does a licence mean that everything will be fine for my dog?

Another simple answer – no! Just because someone has a licence doesn’t mean they will stick to the provisions of that licence, so keep your wits about you and think about your particular dog when calling or visiting. Also, your friend’s dog may go to a boarder with 4 or 5 dogs and love it, but your more reserved dog may find it hell on earth and need something completely different.

Can I complain to anyone if I’m not happy?

This is one advantage of using a licensed business – if you have made the business owner aware of any issues and have not received what you feel is an appropriate response, get in touch with the Council. They will be able to document complaints and act on them by making unannounced visits to review their decision to grant a licence. If you believe that a business owner isn’t putting the welfare of the dogs first, then it is something that needs addressing.

How do Wagging Tails operate and are all of our Dog Carers licensed? 

Wagging Tails was set up by Lisa Suswain with the intention of providing fellow dog owners with the service that she would want for her dog; namely offering guest dogs a true home from home holday with an experienced dog owner when their owners went away - effectively being that friend or family member that not every owner has to look after their dog when they go away. The aim of the service is to replicate as closely as possible each dog's own daily routine and remove the stress (both for owner and dog) that often accompanies going on holiday. Wagging Tails only board one family's dog at a time to make this possible and position our guest dogs truly at the heart of our service. 

At Wagging Tails, all our carers are interviewed and their homes inspected by ourselves and our dogs. If they meet our high standards then they are inspected by their local council, a third party, who will ensure not only the carer but their property are worthy of a license. No-one without a license (where it is a requirement) will ever board dogs for Wagging Tails. 

A few rules of thumb: 

Whether using a kennel or home boarder there are a few things you can do to help ensure that your dog is going to be happy and safe and you can relax while you are away. 

  • Always Visit. Whether using a kennel or home boarder you should always insist on visiting the location your dog will be staying in and meeting the person who will be caring for him / her. No matter how busy they are your boarder should be able to find the time to do this. At Wagging Tails we insist on this meeting which we call a ("sniffing out meeting") no matter how busy our Carers are as it is essential to the service we provide and the peace of mind of our owners. If you are told that you cannot meet the boarder prior to the board taking place I would be inclined to give that boarder a miss as it would raise too many question marks in my mind. 
  • Validate the business. If there are no address details, only a mobile number and a vague reference to where they are based you should check with your Council to see if they have heard of that business & whether it is licensed. Many times you will find the answer is no. This again would raise serious concerns for me as there is no way I would ever allow Bandit to stay with anyone who is this guarded about their business. 
  •  Check the licence. Ask to see the licence – it is just a piece of A4 paper that is provided to all licensed premises, and is frequently available via a pdf email copy. I send out a copy of my carer’s licences at the time of booking so that an owner doesn’t need to check it, but if you are unsure if your boarder is licenced  please ask to see it when you visit – sadly, some boarders out there will rely on our traditionally British approach of not wanting to seem rude by asking to actually see the licence! 

As the provision of dog care changes and grows in the UK, we as owners need to keep ourselves informed about things to make sure that we don’t get caught out. I hope that the above information has helped you to know what things you should look for when looking at boarding services for your dog.

To find out more about the options available to dog owners when they go away please take the time to read our Dog Holiday Guide . If you would like to find out more about what is involved in becoming a Carer please read our post I want to look after dogs. What do I need to know?

Hilary Coates and her Beagle, BanditHilary Coates and Bandit own and run the Wagging Tails Swindon franchise offering owners throughout the SN postcode area a home based alternative to kennels. Go here to find out more about her Swindon dog boarding service.