Smaller dog day care businesses across the North West have cause for concern following changes to governmental guidelines on licensing controls, according to a leading animal trades insurance expert.
With more than a quarter of people (27%) in the North West owning a dog and an estimated total of 1,110,000 dogs living in the region, the government's changes are set to impact a huge number of people either directly or indirectly.
Andrew Ball works for animal-related business insurance specialists Cliverton and says that recent modernisation of the government's rules relating to licenses for companies who work with animals is a step in the right direction, but that it may mean smaller operations struggle to survive.
“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," said Andrew, with a new star-rating system and differing interpretation of the law by local authorities business owners’ concerns.
“Entrepreneurs running a business from home will be hit the hardest as the restrictive rules, such as each boarding dog having its own designated room and deeming outbuildings, will lead to a reduction in the number of dogs that they can legally accommodate," he added. “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.”
Dog day care and home boarding businesses have been fighting back, calling for greater clarity and amendments to be made to ‘contradictory’ regulations, with a petition - signed by 20,000 people - launched since when DEFRA have made some changes, including allowing pets in day care to be walked off the lead ‘with the owner’s consent’.
In addition, DEFRA say they will continue to work closely with key stakeholders to ensure the licensing requirements are clear and consistent, efforts which Andrew calls "positive"
“Hopefully local authority interpretation of the law will be more uniform going forward," he continued. “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.”