Updated 15 May 2020

This guidance has been compiled by members of the National Animal Health and Welfare Panel. This is based on the opinion of the authors and is not a definitive interpretation of the law which only a court can give.

As an owner or keeper of an animal you have a duty to care for the welfare of that animal.

The following page contains advice for animal businesses and pet owners during the coronavirus outbreak.

You must follow government social distancing and business closure advice.

Animal breeders

Most breeders will not be offering animals for sale via a shop, therefore they can continue in business.

Lucy's law means that the mother must be seen with a kitten or puppy at the point of sale. To avoid potential welfare problems with the sale of these animals from breeders during the emergency response and the need for social distancing, video footage should be shared by the breeder of the offspring with their mother before the sale.

This may create animal welfare issues where there’s a surplus of animals that cannot be homed during this time.

All breeders should consider whether it’s necessary to continue with their breeding programme over the next 6 months, where they have limited opportunity to sell animals. The owners of the animals will always have a duty of care and legal responsibility for the welfare of their animals, including any offspring. They should cease trading if they cannot maintain the welfare needs of any animal under their control during this time.

Breeders can deliver any puppies or kittens that they’re selling to the buyers directly, as they’re allowed to travel for work.

If a breeder transports animals further than 65 kilometres they’ll need to apply for authorisation by completing an application form.

Collecting puppies or kittens from a breeder

Buyers are not allowed to collect animals from breeders as this is not considered to be essential travel.

Only licensed breeders can transport animals to their buyers.

Poultry sales and pet sales licences

As most people buy poultry to produce eggs, poultry breeders will not need a pet sales licence.

Pet shops

Pet shops can continue to trade. They can sell small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs.

Any journey whose main purpose is solely to buy a pet animal would be a breach of the movements restrictions as this is not essential travel.

You may visit a pet shop to buy food and other essentials for an existing pet.

Home boarders

Home boarders need to be mindful of the welfare implications to the animals under their charge. They should prioritise the care of those animals who belong to key workers if welfare becomes an issue.

Where a home boarder is not able to sufficiently protect the interest of the animals under their charge, alternative care arrangements must be found.

Home boarders may be able to exceed their licence to care for animals of key workers. This matter will be determined at a local level based on the history of the business and their level of previous compliance. 

Rescue centres

Rescue centres can continue to travel to rehome animals as they are allowed to travel for work.

If a rescue centre transports animals further than 65 kilometres they’ll need to apply for authorisation by completing an application form.

Any home inspection should be done using supplied video footage of the home rather than a home visit. Members of the public should not visit the centre to choose a new pet as this is not considered to be essential travel.

Dog grooming

Dog groomers

Dog groomers can continue to operate. 

They should collect and deliver any animals that they are taking to a salon for grooming as they are allowed to travel for work.

If a groomer transports animals further than 65 kilometres they’ll need to apply for authorisation by completing an application form.

Customers cannot take their dog to a groomer by vehicle but they may be able to walk to the business as part of their daily exercise.

Dog groomers based in pet shops can also still operate. Travel for this is not allowed if the main purpose of travel is to use a dog grooming service.

Mobile dog grooming businesses may also continue to trade, subject to them following social distancing guidelines.

Grooming your own dog

Many people have bought pet grooming kits online so that they can groom their own dog while movement restrictions are in place. 

Dog grooming is not a regulated activity. While anyone can groom an animal, it's advised that for animal welfare reasons, only a person with appropriate skill and training should groom animals.

If dog grooming services cannot be obtained the usual service provider, pet owners should find an alternative service provider that has the relevant experience and training. This will avoid the risk of any unnecessary suffering inadvertently being caused to their animal.

Dog walking

Dog walking services may still be provided subject to following social distancing guidelines. For further guidance see GOV.UK and The Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG).

A professional dog walker may travel to exercise dogs as part of their work.

Horses and livestock

You may:

  • leave your house to exercise once a day, and you should combine this with leaving your house to provide care for your horse or livestock
  • ride your horse, as it is important for the welfare of the animal. This may also be considered to be part of your daily exercise
  • seek care for your animal from a vet or farrier

Riding lessons

Subject to social distancing measures remaining in place, 1-2-1 riding lessons are now allowed.

Zoos

The relaxation in the movement of people and opening up of parks in England has meant that subject to social distancing measures, more businesses are now allowed to open.

As most zoos are in parkland or safari parks that you drive around, it is a matter of deciding on a case by case basis whether a zoo may operate subject to social distancing rules. Those rules relating to the closure of gift shops and cafes must be maintained.

If a zoo is considering reopening they should talk to their local police force first.

If you run a licensed zoo or aquarium in England and are experiencing severe financial difficulties because of lost revenue, you can apply for a grant of up to £100,000.