The process of providing a risk rating
For the activity of “Keeping or training animals for exhibition”, all licences are for three years on the basis that these activities have been subject to a simple registration system. There is no risk assessment applied to such activities.
Q1. When should businesses be rated?
Businesses should be rated following an inspection that takes place prior to grant/renewal of the licence or a requested re-inspection. Businesses may also be re-rated following an unannounced or additional inspection (eg following a complaint), if major issues are highlighted that require follow up action.
Q2. When should new businesses be rated?
New businesses should be rated following their initial inspection.
Q3. Where businesses have a licence for multiple activities within the scope of the regulations, should each activity be rated separately?
The licence holder should receive only one rating, which must cover all the activities. Where they are meeting different standards for different activities (eg meeting the higher standards for dog breeding, but the minimum standards for dog boarding), the overall score should reflect the lower of the two.
Q4. What information should the local authority provide with the star rating following the inspection at which a rating was determined?
The following information should be provided in writing:
(a) The star rating itself (see scoring matrix below)
(b) Details of why the business was rated as it was. This should include a list of the higher standards that the business is currently failing to meet, or a list of the minimum standards that the business is failing to meet if it is considered to be in the minor failing category. This should also include a copy of the risk management table showing the scores under each point. Details recorded must be sufficient to support the score given for each element to facilitate internal monitoring or enable review where an appeal is made.
(c) Details of the appeals process and the deadline by which an appeal must be made.
The appeals process
To ensure fairness to businesses, local authorities must have an appeal procedure in place for businesses to dispute the star rating given in respect of their business. The appeal procedure is relevant where the business wishes to dispute the star rating given as not reflecting the animal welfare standards and risk level of their business at the time of the inspection. This should not be used if the business has made improvements to their business and wishes to be reassessed – in this case, they should apply for re-inspection.
Q5. How can a business appeal their star rating?
If a business wishes to appeal the star rating given by the ‘inspecting officer’ (i.e. the officer undertaking the inspection) on behalf of the local authority, the appeal should be made in writing (including by email) to the local authority.
A business disputing a rating should be encouraged to discuss this informally first with the ‘inspecting officer’ so that there is an opportunity to help explain to the business how the rating was worked out, as this may help resolve the matter without the business having to lodge an appeal. Any such discussions do not form part of the formal appeal process and do not change the deadline within which an appeal must be lodged. This should be made clear to the business so that they may lodge an appeal, and may subsequently withdraw it, if they wish.
Businesses have 21 days (including weekends and bank holidays) following the issue of their licence in which to appeal the star rating.
Q6. How will a local authority determine the outcome of the appeal?
The appeal should be determined either by the head of the department that issued the licence within the local authority, or by a designated deputy, or by the equivalent in another authority. No officer involved in the production of the rating, or in the inspection on which the rating is based should consider the appeal.
The local authority then has 21 days (including weekends and bank holidays) from the date they receive the appeal to consider the appeal, within which time they must issue a decision to the business.
A local authority will determine the outcome of an appeal by considering the paperwork associated with the inspection and the past record of the business. In some circumstances, a further visit to the establishment may be required. The appeal process should be transparent. The costs of any additional inspections related to the appeal will be borne by the applicant unless it results in a higher rating being awarded. This will depend on the nature of the dispute and whether a decision can or cannot be made on the basis of the paperwork.
Q7. What if the business disagrees with the outcome of the appeal?
If the business disagrees with the outcome of the appeal, they can challenge the local authority’s decision by means of judicial review. The business also has recourse to the local authority complaints procedure (including taking the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman where appropriate) if they consider that a council service has not been properly delivered.
Requests for re-inspections for re-rating purposes
To ensure fairness to businesses, local authorities must have a procedure in place for undertaking re-inspections at the request of the business for re-assessing their star rating.
The re-inspection mechanism applies in cases where businesses with ratings of ‘1’ to ‘4’ have accepted their rating and have subsequently made the necessary improvements to address non-compliances identified during the local authority’s previous inspection. Businesses should be aware that re-inspection for re-rating purposes could lead to a lower rating being awarded rather than an increase in rating.
Q8. Who pays for a re-inspection visit?
Re-inspection falls under full cost recovery, and so the business will be required to pay for the costs of the inspection.
Q9. When is the inspection carried out?
The re-inspection should be carried out within three months of receipt of the request. Where an inspection does not occur within the three months, the business can raise the issue with the head of the licensing department within the local authority. If the matter cannot be resolved, the business has recourse to the local authority complaints procedure.
Q10. How many re-inspections can a business request?
There is no limit to the number of re-inspection visits a business can request, however, there will be a fee for each visit charged at full cost recovery.
Q11. How should a business request a re-inspection?
The request should be made in writing (including by email) and should outline the case for a re-inspection, i.e. it should indicate the actions that have been taken by the business to improve the level of compliance or welfare since the inspection and, where appropriate, should include supporting evidence. The supporting case should refer to those actions that the local authority informed the business would need to be made in order to achieve a higher rating.
Q12. Must the local authority accede to all requests for re-inspections?
No. If the case made by the business is not substantiated or insufficient evidence is provided, the local authority can refuse to undertake a re-inspection on that basis. In doing so, the local authority must explain why the request is being refused at this stage and should re-emphasise the priority actions that must be taken in order to improve the rating and indicate what evidence will be required for agreement to a re-inspection to be made on further request. If the business disagrees with the local authority’s decision to refuse a request for a re-inspection, they can raise the issue with the head of the licensing department within the local authority. If the matter cannot be resolved, the business has recourse to the local authority complaints procedure.
Q13. Where there is a supporting case, must a re-inspection be made or can a new rating be given on the basis of documentary evidence?
A re-inspection must be made. A new rating must not be given on the basis of documentary evidence only.
Q14. Where a re-inspection is to be undertaken, should this be unannounced?
This will depend on the reason for the re-inspection. This can be by appointment, unless an unannounced visit is necessary to ensure that compliance is checked properly (e.g. if the non-compliance was related to cleanliness standards).
Q15. If standards have not improved or have deteriorated at the time of the re-inspection, should a lower rating be given?
At the time of the re-inspection, the local authority officer should not only check that the required improvements have been made, but should also assess the ongoing standards. This means that the rating could go up, down or remain the same as can the length of the licence.
Q16. Should the ratings be published?
The star rating must be added to the licence and the licence should be displayed by the business. In addition, the local authority will maintain a list of licensed businesses and their associated ratings on their website. This will include:
- Licence unique reference number
- Type of licence - new or renewal
- Trading name
- District postcode eg NR1 of business premises
- Licence start date
- Licence expiry date
- Licence category
- Star rating
Q17. Can a licence be suspended, varied or revoked?
A local authority may at any time vary a licence:
(a) On the application in writing of the licence holder, or
(b) On their own initiative, with the consent in writing of the licence holder.
(c) In addition to the above a local authority may suspend, vary or revoke a licence without the consent of the licence holder if:
i. The licence conditions are not being complied with,
ii. There has been a breach of the Regulations,
iii. Information supplied by the licence holder is false or misleading, or
iv. It is necessary to protect the welfare of an animal.
Such a suspension, variation or revocation of a licence will normally take effect 7 working days after the decision has been issued to the licence holder unless the reason is to protect the welfare of an animal in which case you may stipulate that the decision has immediate effect.