Boarding kennel sector trends

Multiple dogs playing outdoors with woman watching them

(last updated February 2024)

The performance of the pet boarding industry in the UK is closely linked to:

  • the cat and dog populations
  • the number of holidays people take - particularly overseas trips
  • the average fees charged by kennels
  • competition from pet-friendly holiday accommodation providers and non-traditional boarding businesses

Data from Statista reveals that there were 12 million dogs and 11 million cats in the UK in 2023. People's attitudes towards their pets have changed over the years and in many households they're treated like one of the family.

The number of overseas holidays taken by British people grew in 2022 but numbers had still not returned to pre-pandemic levels when it hit a record low.

That said, a foreign holiday still remains a key trigger for pet owners to board their animals. Brexit introduced new restrictions and pet passports issued in England, Scotland and Wales are no longer valid for travel to the EU.

A trend that hasn't been so good for the pet boarding industry is an increase in the popularity of taking short breaks and holidays in the UK - especially since COVID. While cat owners might still board their animals (although many just ask friends and family to look after them for a few days), dog owners tend to choose 'pet friendly' accommodation and bring their pet with them.

Pet home boarding and pet sitting have become popular alternatives to using a boarding kennels and these types of business are a growing source of competition for the kennels and cattery sector. Home boarding services for pets must be licensed to trade but pet sitters don't need a licence.

It seems that many traditional pet boarding establishments have found it difficult to raise their charges in recent years. However, some pet owners increasingly seem prepared to spend considerable amounts of money on pampering their pets and this has allowed some boarding kennels to move upmarket and offer an expensive 'luxury' pet boarding service.

Animal Welfare and other legislation affecting boarding kennels

The Animal Welfare Act was implemented in April 2007. The Act both streamlined and strengthened the legislation to ensure greater protection for all animals under human care or supervision. It extended existing powers to introduce secondary welfare legislation leading to new licensing conditions for dog and cat boarding establishments. Under the new regulations, which came into effect in October 2018, dog and cat boarding establishments must obtain an animal activities licence to be allowed to carry on their business. Guidance notes for local authorities explaining the new regulations and how to apply them can be found on the website.

Changes made to the Dangerous Dogs Act in 2014 mean that a person in charge of a dog is committing a criminal offence if it is 'dangerously out of control' not just in a public place but also in a private space such as a home or garden. Defra provides a guide to the Dangerous Dogs Act on its website.

Keeping up to date with developments in the boarding industry

Joining a trade association is an excellent way of keeping up with developments in your industry. The Pet Industry Federation (PIF), which includes the Licenced Kennel and Cattery Association, represents the sector and their website includes a large amount of useful information.

Subscribing to a trade journal is another good way of staying up to date. Probably the best known journal for the pet boarding industry is Kennel & Cattery Management, which is published every two months.

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