Animal licensing fees in Northumberland are set to stay the same after a review was put back six months

License fees for animal businesses in Northumberland are to stay at the current level, following significant hikes last year in the wake of new rules.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd November 2019, 1:50 pm
Northumberland County Council's HQ in Morpeth.

As reported last October, new animal welfare licensing regulations, which unified and updated a number of previous rules, came into force at the start of that month.

It meant a new regime to control the following activities – selling animals as pets; providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs; hiring out horses; breeding dogs; and keeping or training animals for exhibition.

A meeting of Northumberland County Council’s licensing and regulatory committee heard that the new inspections are more stringent and take much longer, with additional training required for staff.

Therefore, councillors approved a hike in the fees charged for licences, which in some cases were quite significant jumps. For example, the previous charge for a new home-boarding licence was £105 plus a vet inspection fee and it increased to £250 plus the vet charge.

Members agreed to these rises following reassurance from licensing manager Tasmin Hardy that the new fees were based on anticipated costs, with no profit whatsoever, and do not include costs in relation to unlicensed premises.

It was also agreed that there would be a review after 12 months to ensure the charges were reasonable.

However, at its meeting on Wednesday, October 23, the committee agreed it would now wait until next April for a review of the fees, ‘to allow for a more reliable estimation of officer time to be calculated’.

But, if anything, it appears as if the charges may even have to be raised further, according to the report to councillors, which said that ‘the time allocated within the calculation of the fees was an underestimation of the average time required particularly in the case of pet shops and dog-breeding licences.

‘This was due to the number of new mandatory conditions, additional requirements for record keeping, the introduction of a risk rating scheme and the creation of application procedures and amendments to the computer systems used.’

The report added that a number of cases required more than 10 hours of officer time, with three applications taking in excess of 16 hours due to repeated visits, although it is noted that the time taken is likely to drop as officers and licence holders become more familiar with the new regulations.