Tuesday 19 September 2023

Cat and dog boarding catteries and kennels squeezed out of business by council licensing fees

NEWS AND COMMENT-KIRKLEES COUNCIL, WEST YORKSHIRE, UK: It's reported by the Yorkshire Post that cat and dog boarding catteries and kennels are being squeezed out of business in the region governed by Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire because the council have dramatically raised licensing fees for these businesses.

Amelia Franks (centre) with others argues her case against the fee increase. Image: YouTube/Kirklees Council.

You have to have a licence from the council to run a boarding cattery and kennels. The huge increase is due to come into effect next month. Charges are being raised from £482 for a three-year licence to £1650 together with a consideration fee of £221. The owners of these businesses are outraged and can see themselves going bankrupt because of the sharp increase.

Comment: it seems to me that too many UK councils have found themselves in dire financial straits due to poor management, sometimes investing in risky projects such as buying commercial property and renting it out. The news is that about 20 UK councils are in effect bankrupt with massive debts. And if they aren't in this sort of mess, many are struggling with inflation and with post-Covid problems to run their councils in a financially viable way. They are seeking alternative means of revenue one of which is driving fines and charging for parking. The motorist is being hammered and now it seems that this council is hammering dog kennels and cat boarding catteries in order to raise some precious cash.

The business owners have pleaded with the council to review the increased charging. One of them is Amelia Franks, the owner of Countryside Canines Dog Walking and Boarding. She attended a full council meeting last week with two other business owners to present their argument that the fees are unreasonable.

Ms Franks boards one dog at a time but she has to pay the same as a kennel with 20 dogs. For her the licensing fee will be an overhead that is simply infeasible and she said that it will be the same for other small businesses.

She argues that other neighbouring councils have licensing fees which are considerably cheaper such as £403 in Leeds, £409 in Calderdale and £341 in Wakefield. And often fees vary with the number of dogs in the kennel which doesn't apply at Kirklees.

Ms Franks also feels that the increased licensing fee is discriminatory against women because often women run these boarding catteries and boarding kennels. 

She added:

“Not only is it concerning that our businesses are at risk but as a predominantly female industry we feel that the female business owners are facing yet another unintentional disadvantage in society. I have asked if other industries that are predominantly male-led have faced similar price increases within Kirklees, however, I’m yet to receive a response on this. Lastly, and most importantly, we feel that the welfare of the dogs and dog owners within Kirklees has been totally overlooked. We mostly take on dogs who are not suitable for kennels, they might be anxious, nervous, come from a rescue centre and have very specific requirements. Ourselves and our clients are in despair. We urgently call for the new licensing fees to be reviewed before many of us lose our essential businesses that we’ve worked hard for and before dog owners find themselves making tough decisions about where to place their dogs.”

In response, the council argued that the size of the business has minimal impact on the actual cost of carrying out the licensing process which is why they don't make adjustments for smaller kennels.

The councils argue that their licensing fees are reasonable costing about £12 per week or £1.70 per day as a business overhead. And they allow the businesses to pay the fee in stages by direct debit to ease the burden. In short, they will not change their position on this.

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