Dog Home Boarding and Day Care: Do I Need a Licence if I Earn Under £1000?

The £1000 trading allowance explained..

Association of Dog Boarders investigates…

In the DEFRA document ‘Guidance notes for conditions for providing home boarding for dogs’ November 2018 there is a caveat allowing people who earn less than £1000 per year in trading income to home board dogs without needing a licence. The details surrounding this statement are causing some debate within the home boarding community, so this guide is to help home boarders understand its context.

DEFRA say:

“The local authority inspectors should take into account all of the elements and weigh them against each other before reaching a decision as to whether an activity falls within the scope of the regulations.”

This means that your local authority makes the final decision regarding whether you need a licence or not. It is not up to you, and taking advice from those on social media could lead you down the wrong path. Regardless of your total earnings and income from any source, you should contact your local authority to be sure of their position regarding licence requirements in your local borough.

DEFRA say:

“The regulations specify two example business tests to be considered when determining whether an activity is considered as ‘commercial’ and thus within scope.”

The local authority will take the guidance into consideration when deciding if an individual home boarder needs a licence, but the ultimate determination is left to them. The information is ‘to be considered’ and is not statutory.

DEFRA say:

In scope

Question: Does the operator conduct the activity in order to make a profit?

Question: Does the operator earn any commission from the activity?

Question: Does the operator earn a fee for the activity?

Those who provide accommodation for other people’s dogs where the provision of the accommodation is entirely or partially the purpose of the business.

Those who arrange the provision of accommodation services but do not provide the services themselves.

Businesses providing accommodation for dogs in a domestic home environment.

Not in scope

Businesses who provide services where boarding is consequential and not the actual purpose (such as a vet).

Businesses offering boarding outside of a domestic home environment are out of scope for a home boarding licence but will need a commercial day care or kennels licence.

Businesses who look after the dogs in the owner’s own home.

The Government announced in Budget 2016 a new allowance of £1,000 for trading income from April 2017. Anyone falling under this threshold would not need to be considered in the context of determining whether they are a business.

These are considerations, they are not definitive. The decision regarding whether you require a home boarding licence or not falls with your local authority. The decision can be made by an inspector or a licence officer.


The £1000 that is being referred to is your tax-free allowance for property or trading income, which begins each year on 1st April.

Trading income is separate to any income that you earn from being employed, receiving a pension or claiming benefits. It is an allowance that is available for people who are earning an income through self-employed status and through their hobbies (known as ‘casual earnings’). Everyone, whether self-employed or employed or receiving a pension or benefits has this allowance.

Self-employed people must add together all their annual earnings from any channel (including casual earnings) and remain under the £1000 threshold to utilize this allowance. There are also restrictions on using the trading income allowance if you own your own business or are connected to a company or partnership.

Those employed, receiving pensions or benefits (assuming that they are not also self-employed) must add together all their casual earnings and remain under the £1000 threshold to utilize this allowance.

Trading income is about INCOME, TURNOVER or EARNINGS. If you wish to deduct your expenses from your gross income, you cannot use the trading income allowance. If you wish to deduct your expenses or costs from your income, the trading allowance is not applicable and you must report your earnings to HMRC in the usual manner.

The £1000 referred to in the DEFRA guidance document is this allowance.

– If you are not eligible for this allowance, then you need a home boarding licence.

– If your self-employed total earnings exceed £1000 for any type of work, you need a home boarding licence.

– If your casual earnings through any channel exceed £1000, you need a home boarding licence.

– If you self-employed earnings plus your casual earnings exceed £1000, you need a home boarding licence.


Janet is retired. She earns £700 a year from home boarding and sells home made peg bags at the Sunday market, usually making around £400 a year. Her total trading income is £1100. Janet needs a home boarding licence unless her local authority tells her otherwise.

Susan works part time in a school and home boards during the school holidays. She earns £9,000 from her employer, and £950 a year from home boarding. Susan does not need a home boarding licence unless her local authority tells her otherwise.

Kathy is a self-employed dog walker that also boards 2 of her client’s dogs as they are not good in kennels. She earns £12000 a year from her dog walking business, but only £450 from boarding the dogs. Kathy’s total trading income is £12450 a year. As Kathy owns her own company, she is not entitled to the trading income allowance – so she needs a home boarding licence unless her local authority tells her otherwise.

David takes home boarding dogs through an online agency. The agency pays him when the owners book in, but he is classed as self-employed. David also does a bit of gardening in the local area (he doesn’t advertise), and he buys and sells coins on eBay as a hobby. All of David’s income from the home boarding, the coin collecting, and the gardening must be totalled together to class as his trading income. As his total earning before expenses is £1300, David needs a home boarding licence unless his local authority tells him otherwise.


It is more likely than not that once you add up all of your self-employed earnings and your casual earnings, you will need a home boarding licence. The trading income allowance is not based on profit – it is based on total earnings from all types of casual earning and self-employed income.

And ultimately, right now it is up to your Local Authority. Do not take advice from others on social media or through online agency services, as if you trade without home boarding licence and your local authority deemed that you should have one, the fine cannot be waived due to what others have told you. It is your responsibility to check if you need a home boarding licence in your borough, and it is easy to check.

When you have carefully considered your earnings and are clear on what you earn, contact the licence department in your local authority and ask them to confirm that you have correctly assessed their requirements. MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE THEIR DECISION IN WRITING, as this will help if the personnel in the licence office change and the new staff have a different view on the requirements for home boarding licences.

For further information, contact us at the Association of Dog Boarders at:

Written in conjunction with Waggy Walks 4 Dogs Pet Business Support


Home Boarding Guidance November 2018

What is home boarding for dogs?

Top Tips for Home Boarding Your New Dog

Your new puppy has arrived, and you suddenly realise that in a couple of months, you have a holiday booked!  What do you do?  You could take your puppy to kennels, but there is an alternative service available, home boarding.  Home boarding offers your dog the opportunity to stay with a boarder in their own home. Your dog is treated as one of the family.  Home boarders require a licence from their local authority in order to offer home boarding or day care services from their property.

You can find a list of licenced home boarders on your Local Authority’s website, or you can call and ask for information.  The Association of Home Boarders also has a list of licenced home boarders in their Members Directory.

Top Tip 

Make your arrangements as soon as possible!  Home boarders become fully booked for peak periods very early in the year.  By March, a large percentage of the August home boarding spaces have already been taken.   

How does it work? 

Once you find a home boarder that has availability, you will be asked to attend a meet and greet.  This will be at the home boarder’s house, or you may be asked to meet for a walk first.  You should be invited to see the property and bring your dog with you.  You may be asked to provide evidence of your dog’s vaccinations before the meeting is booked.  The meet and greet lasts around 45 minutes and give you an opportunity to see the house, meet any resident dogs and to ask any questions that you might have. 

Questions to ask at the Meet and Greet 

  • Can I see your licence and insurance? 
  • How many dogs are you licenced to board? 
  • What is your daily routine? 
  • How many dogs do you walk together? 
  • Where do you walk? 
  • Can my dog go off-lead? 
  • Where will my dog sleep? 
  • Are you canine first aid trained? 
  • What happens if my dog becomes unwell? 
  • What happens if there is a problem with my dog? 
  • What do I need to bring for my dog? 

Bear in mind that there are no right or wrong answers, each home boarder will run their business slightly differently but these questions will give you a good starting point, and will be handy if you are going to compare more than one home boarder before making a decision. 

Do not feel pressured to use a home boarder if you do not get a good feeling at the meeting!  At the beginning of the relationship you will not feel like you know your home boarder very well, and yet you are leaving a valued member of your family in their care.  It is important that you feel that it is the right home boarder for you.  Home boarders are professionals, and do not take it personally if you do not wish to continue after the meet and greet – but it is  courteous to let the home boarder know if you are not going to use their service so that they can offer the dates to other clients.  You do not need to give reasons but do let them know that you are continuing with your search.  Good home boarders will help you by suggesting other licenced professionals in the area that might be a better fit. 

What happens next? 

You will also be asked to register your dog with the home boarder if you have not done so already. 

You will be asked to book your dog in for a trial or assessment which will be reflective of the service that you require.  If you are booking overnight boarding for a holiday, your dog is likely to be required to do an overnight trial to make sure that they are a good fit with the other guests and resident dogs and are not too unhappy when you leave them.  The home boarder is required to monitor your dog during the trial and will give you feedback at the end as to their suitability for home boarding.   

When your dog passes their trial, you will be able to make a formal booking for your holiday.  Most home boarders will ask you to pay a deposit in order to secure the dates that you require for your dog.   

Things to Consider When Using a Home Boarder 

Puppies need time and practice with their home boarder!  Young dogs go through various stages of development including ‘fear phases’ where they re-assess everything they have already learned, and decide for themselves if situations and scenarios are ‘scary’.  It is important to let your puppy meet your chosen home boarder as many times as is necessary to ensure that your puppy does not decide that boarding is ‘scary’.   

You need to tell your vet to add your home boarder to your dog’s veterinary records, so that they can make medical decisions if you are not contactable while you are away.  You can also add an emergency contact to your vet records (a trusted friend or relative) to help the home boarder make decisions.  You must tell your vet formally about this arrangement or any treatment for your dog will be delayed while the vet tries to get in contact with you.  

Dogs act differently in a multi-dog environment.  Your dog is used to having no competition for resources such as food and toys, and they also are not used to sharing their beds and blankets.  This is why the assessment is important, and it is also why you may be surprised at some of the behaviour that your home boarder reports to you!  Home boarders are experienced in managing dogs that behave a little differently to when they are at home, so unexpected behaviour does not always mean that your dog cannot stay. 

A dog’s learning and comfort is situational, which means that just because your dog is happy staying with one home boarder, they may not be happy staying with another.  If you need to change home boarders, expect to go through the trial period again, and if the home boarder tells you that your dog is not happy or not settling, it may well be true!  Just as we do not get along with everyone we meet in life, dogs have the same outlook.  Home boarders rarely take it personally if a dog just can’t settle in their home environment, and good home boarders will refer you to a trusted colleague who may have an environment that is better suited to your dog.   

You cannot bring too many blankets and towels.  As well as being a comfortable place to sit or lie, even freshly washed blankets bring all the smells from home that help a dog to settle.  If a dog is unsure or a little unsettled in the first few days of boarding, they will naturally find the smell of home from their bed and blankets comforting and will consider the area where their bed is positioned as a ‘safe place’.  This is also why dogs that sleep on the owner’s bed are less inclined to do so with their home boarder.  To the dog, your bed smells of you and this is what they need.  The dog is better to have things with them that smell of you to sleep with – as the home boarder’s bed will smell totally different. 

Home boarders get booked up for the school holidays very early!  If you have your holiday at roughly the same time each year, talk to your home boarder about how much notice they normally need for a school holiday booking, or ask if they are able to ‘pencil you in’ and let you know when they start to get full. 

For further information on the home boarding process, contact  

Are you using a licensed dog boarder?

With the rise in the use of home dog boarders and day carers do you understand the importance of using a licensed operator?

If you choose someone who is operating illegally without a licence the chances are that their insurance will be invalid should anything happen to your pup.

When you choose a licensed dog boarder you can be safe in the knowledge that they have had to prepare policies that adhere to the Animal Welfare Law (licensed activities) 2018.

These policies include cleaning regimes, exercise and play plans, emergency procedures in the event of a fire or flood etc and many more.

There will have been an inspection of the property to ensure it is suitable and safe. The inspector will decide how many dogs they feel is safe to have in the home, so there is no worry of cramming dogs in, stacking them in crates, or leaving them all day to go and do another job.

The licensed dog boarder will have also had to pay a licence fee which shows they are invested in what they do.

There are some unlicensed boarders who are very good, but they are operating illegally and there is a fine and prison sentence attached to the offence.

I know which I’d choose.