People who run dog boarding businesses across Kirklees fear they will be forced to shut down after the council ramped up the cost of licences by almost 500%.
People who board dogs – even if they only care for one dog at a time in their own homes – must have a licence issued by Kirklees Council.
But the council has just announced it’s putting up its licence fee from £342 for three years to just short of £1,650 from October 1. Then there’s also a £221 “consideration fee” on top which takes the total to £1,871.
The council says the enormous rise is needed to cover the cost of the service which is the Animal Health Team that’s part of Environmental Health but admits even with such a big increase this still only covers half the cost. If they were covering the entire cost the fees would go up to £3,300.
Neighbouring Bradford Council charges £107 a year, Calderdale Council is £172.74 a year while Manchester City Council charges £362 for three years.
Many people who run small boarding businesses are saying the price rise is ‘crazy’ and will put them out of business, forcing dog owners to board their pets in Calderdale, Bradford, Barnsley and other nearby places.
Without a licence it’s illegal to board a dog in return for money but with the licences so expensive there is a fear that illegal dog boarding will also rocket.
Amelia Franks, of Cowlersley, runs dog boarding, walking and pet services business Countryside Canines but boards just one dog at a time at her home yet says she will have to pay the same licence fee as large kennels boarding 25 dogs a night.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” she said. “When the notification of the price rise came through I thought it must be a misprint. When my licence comes up for renewal in October I’ll have to stop as it’s totally unviable to continue.
“I know of at least another 20 boarders who won’t be able to afford the new fees and the irony is there is already a shortage of dog boarders in the Huddersfield area. This price rise means the town may well end up losing virtually all of them.
“Small businesses like mine only take one dog at a time which means their owner knows their pet will be very well looked after with lots of attention. Many simply don’t want to put their dogs into kennels.
“I just can’t understand how Kirklees can possibly think we can afford such an extortionate price rise.”
Dog boarders who are licensed are visited by Kirklees officials who carry out a thorough assessment of their homes to make sure they are suitable to board dogs, such as ensuring there is sufficient space. They also check through the boarders’ policies and procedures.
Amelia only started to board dogs in 2021 and the highest rating Kirklees can give new boarders is four stars, which Amelia has. She charges £30 to care for a dog for 24 hours.
She said: “If I was putting my charge up at the same rate as Kirklees it would go from £30 to £144 for each 24 hours which shows just how unaffordable it is. I thought it might go up a bit, perhaps to £500, but the new rate is just madness.”
Amelia has checked the costs of licences charged by other councils and found them to be cheaper than the original Kirklees price.
She said: “The council says it’s to cover the cost of dealing with complaints about dog boarding and for investigating those who don’t have a licence but I’ve never heard of any prosecutions.
“Why should someone like me who is paying for a licence have to fund the council to investigate those who don’t have a licence? How can that be fair?”
Clr Naheed Mather, Cabinet member for culture and greener Kirklees, said: “The council appreciates the impact felt by the increase in fees for an animal licence may be greater for some businesses.
“The fee for the licence however is not directly related to the size of the establishment but determined in part by operational costs for granting said licences which are applicable to all establishments, regardless of their size.
“It’s not possible for enforcement costs recovered from prosecutions to be used to help offset licence fees. Costs recovered through the court process are at the discretion of the court and can only be applied following conclusion of a case and most cases are investigated and resolved without the need for this court process. Therefore, the cost for enforcement is usually met by the council.
“Although fees have risen, the council has been able to continue to subsidise these fees by 50%, ensuring the full cost is not passed on to business owners. Fees have also been frozen since 2020.
“Currently fees are paid in one lump sum, but to support licence holders, it will be possible to pay part of the fee in monthly instalments to help spread the cost.”
In a letter to home boarders, Environmental Group Leader for Kirklees Council James Kaye says: “Animal welfare legislation and guidance allow councils to recover from licence holders the whole cost of running the Animal Licensing service.
“Historically, we have not recovered the whole cost. In fact, most of the costs of running the service were covered by the taxpayer. To meet the economic pressures that the council is also facing, we need to move towards a cost recovery model.
“Since 2020 the animal licencing fees have not increased and within that time our operational costs have increased significantly. The service has seen a large increase in the number of complaints received concerning licensed establishments and businesses operating without a licence and this is having a large impact on our resources.
“We are sure you can appreciate that by ensuring we are adequately resourced to investigate and take enforcement action against poorly performing or unlicensed businesses. This helps provide a level playing field for legitimate good businesses and instils public confidence in your services.
“The service is also experiencing increased operational costs through heating, IT support and other infrastructure costs due to the current economic climate. These increased costs in how we deliver the animal licensing function have forced the service to increase its licence fees from 1 October 2023.
“Although the fees have significantly increased, the service is aware that businesses are also seeing increased operational costs which has made trading difficult.
“We have been reluctant to apply the full costs of operating the Animal Licensing service back onto the licence holder due to these trading difficulties and as a result the new fees will still be subsidised by 50% by Kirklees residents.
“We appreciate any increase is difficult to manage but your licence fee will be approximately £10 per week as part of your business operating costs.”
Amelia has now launched a petition which can be found HERE.
Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.