PIF's 'pet shop' definition

Pet retail licensing is currently enshrined within the 1951 Pet Animals Act, which requires vendors to obtain a licence from their local authority in order to sell pets. In the 60 years since its introduction, pet ownership has changed beyond recognition, the internet has changed the way we shop and pet shops as a shopping experience have changed irrevocably. The legislation is now woefully out of date and in need of a serious review to bring it more up-to-date and relevant to today’s pet owning society. PIF is campaigning to bring this legislation into the 21st century to underpin the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The 1951 Pet Animals Act allows for a number of different types of premises to obtain a pet shop licence and therefore operate as a ‘pet shop’. It describes a pet shop as a premises of any nature (including a private dwelling) which is in the business of selling animals as pets, a pet being described in the English dictionary as a domestic or tamed animal or bird kept for companionship. The Pet Industry Federation feels that this description of pet shops is too wide-ranging and that not all of the dwellings allowed for by the Act should be able to obtain a licence.

So, how do you define a pet shop? Pet shops themselves can’t agree on a single title to describe their business function. Definitions from retailers operating in the pet industry range from ‘pet shop’ to ‘high street pet store chain’; to ‘natural pet food store’ and ‘ethical pet retailer’ to ‘discount pet store’. This proliferation of different descriptions of shops operating within the industry is clearly different to how the 1951 Act describes them.

One of the divisions of the Pet Industry Federation (PIF) is the Pet Retailers’ Association (PRA) and PIF has now defined what it considers a ‘pet shop’ to be for the basis of its membership:

A commercial retail premises (shop or store) where business rates are chargeable, which serves as a place of exhibition, which enables the public to see and purchase pets and/or pet-related goods and which is open and visible for public scrutiny at least during working hours. In addition, with the introduction of the internet, PRA’s membership definition has been amended to include online retailers that sell pet-related goods (no pets).

Primary Authority

This need for clarity in defining a pet shop becomes more pertinent now that PIF has just entered into a Primary Authority coordinated partnership with City of London Corporation, to support PIF retail members across England and Wales. The Primary Authority scheme is designed to standardise licensing and ensure that businesses are not subjected to licensing officers imposing arbitrary conditions and wielding inappropriate control over their affairs.

With the introduction of PIF as a Primary Authority partner, it is important that membership criteria are more clearly defined, so that members who wish to sign up to the Primary Authority scheme for pet shop licensing are aware of the conditions they need to meet. The Federation and the City of London Corporation have jointly agreed to use the Model Licence Condition for Pet Vending 2013, published by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health as the basis inspection plan, these conditions having enormous credibility due to being developed by a large and representative stakeholder group.  This will also help to ensure high standards amongst our 'opted-in' member retailers as they will all be inspected according to these agreed conditions. Currently not all local authorities use these most recent MLCs as the basis for their licence inspections. Furthermore, PIF’s Primary Authority pet shops inspections scheme not only uses the latest MLCs but in addition uses upgraded criteria for retailers who may acquire the occasional litter of puppies, through its quality assurance scheme.

The full audit scope to be utilised for pet shops opting-in to Primary Authority will shortly be available on the PIF website www.petfederation.co.uk


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