The animal activity star rating system was introduced under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. The system helps customers make an informed choice and protects the welfare of animals. It is risk-based, following the inspection, to determine the length of the licence and the star rating. The following activities are included:

Keeping or training animals for exhibition requires a licence but does not have a star rating.

How we score a business

The scoring matrix determines the star rating. It takes into account the animal welfare standards adopted by the business and the level of risk (based on elements such as past compliance). 

Scoring matrix
  Welfare standards
Risk level Minor failings Minimum standards Higher standards
Low risk

1 star

1 year licence

3 star

2 year licence

5 star

3 year licence 

Higher risk

1 star

1 year licence 

2 star

1 year licence 

4 star

2 year licence

All licences are subject to one unannounced visit within the term of the licence.

The ratings for the animal licences recently issued under the new legislation average 2 stars, and the reason for the lower star ratings at this time relates to the changes in documentation which have been required by Defra. Most businesses are not yet fully compliant in all areas of the required documentation and have received additional guidance during the inspection process to assist them in achieving full compliance. It is expected that a number of businesses licensed by Cheltenham Borough Council will be in line to achieve a lower risk rating and therefore higher star rating when the licences are renewed in 2020.

Determining welfare standards

Meeting the minimum standards

This means a licence holder meets the standards set out in their 'specific' and the 'general' conditions. The Defra guidance documents outline in more detail how to meet the conditions. It is expected all licence holders will achieve minimum standards. 

Minor failings

A licence will be issued as the failings are normally only administrative.  A licence is not issued or will be suspended or revoked where the welfare of animals may be compromised. 

Higher standards

Each activity has higher standards highlighted in the Defra guidance documents.  Meeting the higher standards is optional but is the only way to gain a higher star rating.  A business must meet the minimum standards before the higher standards can be considered.  There are two types of higher standard: 'required' and 'optional'.  To apply the higher standards businesses need to achieve all of the 'required' higher standards and 50 per cent of the 'optional' higher standards.

Determining business risk

We use the risk scoring table to decide if a business, not certified by a UKAS accredited body, is 'low' or 'high' risk.  The risk assessment does not reconsider specific issues covered by the minimum or higher standards.  It looks at the likelihood of future satisfactory compliance being maintained.  New businesses that do not have three years of compliance history with a local authority (or a UKAS accreditation) will automatically be considered high risk and can therefore only achieve a maximum of four stars at the first licence issue.

A score of 17 or less = low risk.  A score of 18 or more = higher risk.

Compliance history
  Low (score 1 point) High (score 2 points)
Inspections Documented evidence from formal inspections over the previous three years reveal consistent and high levels of compliance in terms of welfare standards and risk management

Formal inspections over the previous three years reveal some degree of non-compliance that has required the intervention of the inspector for the business to ultimately recognise and address these. More serious breaches would attract other enforcement action: suspension, revocation, prosecution.

Follow up action No evidence of follow-up action by local authority in the last year apart from providing the licence holder with a copy of the inspection report, or sending them a letter identifying some minor, administrative areas for improvement (for example minor record keeping issues) Follow up action by the local authority, such as sending them letters, triggered by low level non-compliance that is not addressed, or the business does not recognise the significance of the need to address the non-compliance.
Re-inspection No re-inspection necessary (apart from standard unannounced inspection) before next planned licence inspection / renewal Re-inspection necessary to ensure compliance.
Complaint history
  Low (score 1 point) High (score 2 points)
Complaints to the Local Authority No complaints received direct to the LA that are justified in relation to welfare standards or procedural issues during the previous three years Low level substantiated complaints identifying concerns over the business / licence holder have been received within the previous three years.
Complaints to the business Licence holder records and documents any feedback received directly, in order to demonstrate compliance and willingness to address issues, and can provide evidence of this Licence holder does not record feedback received directly or show willingness to address any issues identified.
Understanding of welfare standards, hazards and risks
  Low (score 1 point) High (score 2 points)
Welfare standards - enrichment Sound understanding by the licence holder of relevant environmental enrichment applicable to the activity (guided by expert advice), with demonstrated implementation Little environmental enrichment present, inconsistently used and its importance not understood or really valued.
Hazards/risks Licence holder clearly understands their role and responsibilities under the legislation. Hazards to both staff and animals clearly understood, properly controlled and reviewed with supporting evidence where applicable. Licence holder not fully engaged with their role/responsibilities, lacks time to fulfil role, no system for review and reassessment of hazards to both animals and staff.
Hazards/risks - maintenance A suitably planned maintenance, repair and replacement program for infrastructure and equipment is in place. No planned maintenance program. Building, installations and equipment allowed to deteriorate before action is implemented.
Hazards/risks - knowledge and experience Staff have specialist and appropriate knowledge of the taxa / species that are kept. There is sufficient staff, time and resource for daily, adequate routine monitoring, evidenced through records and staff rotas. Key staff lack experience / knowledge of the species. Staff appear overburdened and / or unsupported by management, corners being cut.
Hazards/risks - dealing with issues Clear defined roles / responsibilities of staff, with clear processes for reporting and addressing any identified issues. Lack of any process, or ownership and responsibility within the business to identify and deal with issues.
Welfare management procedures
  Low (score 1 point) High (score 2 points)
Written procedures Written procedures / policies clearly documented, implemented and reviewed appropriately. Limited written procedures / polices. No overall strategic control or direction.
Supervision of Staff Appropriate supervision of staff evident where applicable. Inadequate supervision of staff evident on inspecting or from the training records.
Record keeping All required records maintained and made available. Poor standard of record keeping, records out of date or appear to be being manufactured - relevance of records not appreciated.
Training Planned training program for staff to review and assess competency, with documented training records. Little or no evidence of relevant training or system for review and reassessment.

UKAS accreditation

If UKAS-accredited for three or more years an applicant will automatically be considered low risk and will receive the higher star ratings (unless there is evidence of poor animal welfare or non-compliance).

Where significant evidence of poor animal welfare or non-compliance is identified during the inspection, of a UKAS accredited business, the higher standard will not be applied and UKAS will be contacted.

Business safeguards

To make the scheme fair there are a number of safeguards. These are:

Request for a re-visit - Where you have accepted your rating of '1' to '4' and have subsequently made the necessary improvements, you can request a re-inspection.

Right to appeal - If you think your star rating is wrong, in other words it does not reflect the welfare and risk standards found at the time of your inspection, you can make an appeal to the council within 21 days (including weekends and bank holiday) of being told what your rating is.