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Diversification has become an increasingly popular, and often necessary, means of improving the profitability of farming businesses. We are regularly contacted by clients who are looking into various types of diversification, including rural wedding venues and glamping sites, which seem particularly popular at the moment. After all, why not take advantage of the wonderful countryside that we live and work in by enabling others to share the beautiful scenery and to appreciate the landscape that the farming community works so hard to maintain?
With more people looking into these kinds of diversification, it is no surprise that they are needing to distinguish themselves from competitors by supplementing these activities with other attractions, which can be easily run alongside the main business and/or diversification.
One such attraction that we have received a number of enquiries about is animal trekking. If a business already keeps ponies, sheep or other livestock, it would appear to be a natural and seemingly easy activity to add to an existing business.
However, it is important to be aware that animal trekking and numerous other activities involving animals are licensable under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (“the 2018 Regulations”).
The 2018 Regulations place a duty on the Local Authority to enforce the rules and ensure that anyone operating a “licensable activity” either does not need a licence due to not meeting the requirements, or that they obtain a licence. The numerous activities which would amount to a licensable activity come within the following five categories:
- Selling animals as pets
- Providing for or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs
- Hiring out horses
- Dog breeding
- Keeping or training animals for exhibition
To operate a licensable activity, there are some specific conditions which must be met for each of the above categories, in addition to some general conditions, to ensure that the health and welfare of the animals involved is safeguarded.
A Licence will be issued for one, two or three years depending on a risk-based system and a star rating will be awarded to the business. The Local Authority will first determine whether the activity is low or high risk based on various elements, such as past compliance, appreciation of animal welfare standards etc. and a star rating will then be awarded, ranging from 1 to 5 stars. This rating is based on whether the business is determined as being low or high risk and also, following an inspection, whether the business meets the minimum standards laid down in the legislation. For example, the maximum licence length for a low risk, 5-star establishment is a 3 year licence with a minimum of 1 unannounced visit within a 36 month period.
Licences can then be renewed at least 10 weeks before the current licence expires and the Local Authority will carry out an inspection of the premises before renewing the licence.
If an activity is found to be unlicensed, or if the terms of a licence are in breach, the Local Authority must take enforcement action.
As a result, it is clearly important to be aware of any rules and regulations that might apply to a new or existing activity, even if it seems straightforward on the face of it.
If you have any concerns regarding an existing activity, or if you are considering a new operation and would like more information as to the rules and requirements that might apply, please contact a legal adviser in the Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors Agricultural law team on 01653 600070 who will be happy to help.