Dog boarding licensing blog | Wagging Tails Home dog boarding

Licensing for Home Boarding

Lisa Suswain, Wagging Tails
Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Animal Welfare Regulations 2018

No doubt by now you’ve heard that on 1st October the laws governing dog boarding were updated in England and the new Animal Welfare Regulations have now come into force. Whilst this is great news, as previously we were working with the very outdated 1963 Animal Boarding Establishments Act and Wagging Tails were pleased to be asked for advise on the legislation from government bodies, what does it actually mean for dog owners who are looking for the very best care for their dog?

How is it supposed to work?

I’ve entitled this “supposed” to work as many councils haven’t yet got their heads around this so updates are still being made and in many areas licenses are not being issued under this new legislation until later this year. 

The idea is that a star rating system, which will rate a boarding business between 1 and 5 stars (the higher the number of stars the better) will make it easier for dog owners to assess the level of the company. The rating is worked out by looking at how low or high risk the business is and whether the business has minor failings, meets the minimum standards or higher standards. This is all based on previous experience, qualifications, welfare standards, how the business is operated etc plus each councils interpretation of all of the afore mentioned – which is where it gets a bit complicated for dog owners as each council interprets the guidance supplied by DEFRA differently!

As you’re all aware Wagging Tails have led the UK in ethical, licensed home dog boarding and we’ve been working with councils licensing our carers for over 12 years. In many parts of the country we were the first home dog boarding company to obtain licenses under the old 1963 legislation and we’re pleased to report that in areas where councils have now assessed Wagging Tails under this new legislation we continue to lead the way and have been awarded 5* ratings.

Licensed Home dog boarding in Oxfordshire. Ethical and Insured

So what is different?

This update to legislation in England is designed to ensure that all companies are operated legally and with the welfare of animals at the forefront. That said, as an owner, you do still need to ensure you inspect the home your dog is staying in to ensure these standards are being met. If the person actually caring for your dog is considered a business (if you are paying them direct they are) then ask to see their license and if they fall out of scope of needing a license themselves then ask to see a copy of the business’ license. Ultimately you MUST always see where your dog is staying, if that information is hidden from you it may also be hidden from the councils which should ring alarm bells!

What should I look for in a dog boarding company and what questions should I be asking?

Ultimately an open, honest and ethical service. 

Your dogs are part of your family and deciding where to leave them whilst you are away is just like deciding where to leave your child for nursery!

• So make sure the person recommended to care for your dog is right for the dog’s age and breed. 

• Expect to pay a deposit to hold the dates (a reputable business is a busy business and will need to reserve your dog’s holiday dates). 

• Go and meet your dog’s host / carer, see their property and satisfy yourself that it is the right accommodation for your dog. Don’t rely on a third party to say it’s the right match.

• Drop your dog off and collect – ensure your dog is actually staying where you expect them to be staying. A sad story in the Manchester Evening Standard last year when a dog died in the care of a pet care company came about because the owner wasn’t allowed to see where their dogs were staying and ensure they’d receive the care they’d been told they would receive.

• Valid third party liability, care custody and control insurance.

• If the service you are using isn’t an exclusive one and there will be other dogs staying with your dog you must have an opportunity for your dog to socialise with all of the dogs that will be there during your dog’s holiday before the booking commences. It’s best to know this before your holiday than have to call upon your emergency contact whilst you are away.

• Look for qualifications and first aid training 

• Does your dog’s host or carer have 24/7 backup?

• Is the company independently verified by Trading Standards to give you the confidence to know they are meeting all the legal and ethical criteria?

What should I be concerned about when choosing a dog boarding company?

It should ring alarm bells when you’re being told everything any dog owners would want to hear but you’re not being allowed to satisfy yourself by meeting your dog’s Carer and seeing where your dog will be staying. Would you allow someone to collect your child and take them away to somewhere you’ve never been based on someone else’s word?

• Not being allowed to meet the carer or host

• Not being asked to pay a deposit to hold the dates for your dog’s holiday (how in demand is this business? Do their procedures back up their claims?)

• Not seeing a license certificate for the business

• No insurance

• Multiple dogs from different households (each dog must have its own room should the need arise and you should be asked to sign disclaimers for you dog to interact, walk and be fed with other dogs)

• Dog carers who leave your dogs unattended whilst they groom or walk other dogs

Sadly the change in legislation and individual interpretation still means that local authorities apply the rules differently, so as a consumer looking solely at star ratings won’t give you the full picture. In fact the new regulations, which now allow some home boarders to board up to ten dogs at once, aren’t necessarily offering the highest welfare as much of the legislation is based purely on having papework in place and enough rooms to keep dogs (shockingly bathrooms are even being included as suitable accomodation), so you are best placed to ask as many questions of the company you choose, know what sort of environment would be the best fit for your dog/s, meet the boarder and see where and who your dog will be staying with and ultimately go with your gut instinct!