New Business Guide

A comprehensive checklist of requirements for setting up a new reptile business

Opening a new pet centre is complex, there are many things to take account of and planning for it all can be hard. REPTA have written down some handy tips and considerations for you whilst setting up your new enterprise.

The pet shop license

  • Now of course referred to as the License for Activities Involving Animals. This came into power in 2018 and is a large document that goes through in great detail what is expected of you as a shop owner for each type of animal that may be stocked.
  • Here is a link to the legislation guidance: Download LAIA
  • A licensing inspection can only take place once all the infrastructure and relevant services are in place for assessment.
  • You will apply for your license through your local borough council.
  • The council will be very limited on what, if any, support they can offer during this process.
  • The price of the licence is devolved to the local council and can vary considerably from borough to borough.
  • The license is definitive; the licensing inspector must stick to these regulations and not include their own rules, additions or extensions. You must have a through comprehension of what the regulations are asking you to do, so that you will know if this happens.

Infrastructure & shop fitting

  • You will need enclosures, shelving and a counter area in the main sales area.
  • Enclosures can be sourced by a number of means with a network of specialist wholesalers and independent vivarium building companies to choose from.
  • You must consider the size, type and amount of which species you intend to sell and tailor the vivarium shop fit around that.
  • The LAIA regulations have very specific sizing constraints for different species of reptile and amphibian.
  • Make sure the sizes you choose are functional for a number of species.
  • Make sure there is adequate access to power throughout the shop to plug in the myriad of thermostats, lights and other equipment which may be used.
  • This may involve having a ring main installed. It can be useful to have the ring main run at a height of 6ft off the ground so that easy access is possible once the vivaria are in position.
  • This will need a certificate from a qualified electrician.


  • To be able to open to the public and employ staff you will need both public and employer’s liability insurance. Discuss this with the insurer and make sure you have adequate cover in case of an accident.
  • You must specifically discuss the coverage for livestock. Some insurers will not insure livestock at all, others will only insure livestock if it was purchased on a VAT invoice. Be very specific about this element of the coverage.
  • You will need to insure the new shop fit you have installed as well as all the ancillary equipment required to run it (thermostats, heaters, light units, bulb guards, bowls, décor)
  • You will need to account for till systems and computers on site.
  • There is a chance a volume of money may be present in the store or left there at night. You may need a safe for this to be insured.
  • You will need coverage for all dry goods held in store, you will also be able to make provision for frozen goods as well. You will not be able to insure the live foods held in store.
  • It may be a requirement to have extra security on the premises such as alarms, gates and shutters.

Buildings insurance

Some landlords may require either a proportion or full payment of buildings insurance as a covenant of the lease on the premises. Make sure you read the lease agreement thoroughly.

Electricity supply

  • You will need a commercial energy contract, commercial energy is considerably more than domestic rates and you should take the time to shop around. Prepare yourself for the amount of energy you will consume. Depending upon the size of the shop for vivarium or aquarium rich shops to have bills from £800-£3000 per month.
  • You may get the best prices on short term deals buts with the recent unrest in energy prices it may be better to think longer term such as at two or three year deals.
  • If there is an existing ring main in the shop consider mounting vivarium bays onto dollies so they can be moved away from the wall easily for electrical access.

Commercial waste contract

  • You will need a commercial waste company to undertake weekly waste disposal for you. If you have multiple deliveries per week you will produce more waste than you realise in packaging, plastics and cardboard. This is on top of the waste substrates you will also regularly cycle through.
  • Your licensing officer will wish to see these bins or the commercial waste contract as part of the inspection.

Hot running water

Make sure your prospective premises have hot running water or budget for a boiler or water heater to be installed. It is a requirement for the cleaning of water bowls and for hygiene purposes.

Fire safety equipment

  • You will need the fire safety officer or a fire safety equipment provider to undertake a survey of the premises once it nears completion so they can assess which fire extinguishers you will require.
  • Smoke alarms will also form part of your fire safety preparations. Fire safety officers from a local fire station may well be able to provide these free of charge.
  • A safety equipment provider will give you a fire safety certificate, signifying you have taken the proportionate steps in the event of fire.
  • Your licensing inspector will wish to see this certificate.

Additional considerations when budgeting for opening a new business.

  • Infrastructure costs.
    • These can be a lot more than first imagined. If you have 30 vivariums, that is 30 water bowls, 30 lighting fittings, 30 bulb guards, 30 UV kits, 30 thermostats, at least 60 caves, logs or pieces of cork bark, at least 30 pieces of foliage (potentially far more), multiple bulk bags of substrates or various types and 30 vivarium locks. This initial bill can be considerable.
  • Dry stock.
    • You will need an immediate injection of dry goods to be able to sell once you begin trading. This will include expensive ticket items such as vivariums, thermostats and UV equipment. It will also include a selection of décor, substrates, supplements and heat bulbs. This range will increase once you are operational but do not underestimate the amount of goods you will need when you initially open.
  • Frozen foods.
    • You will need considerable storage for frozen goods such as mice, rats, chicks, fish, guinea pigs and rabbits. You will need to budget for at least one tall or chest freezer.
  • Livefoods.
    • Upon opening you will need an immediate injection of live foods stock. This can be tricky to begin with as you won’t be sure how much you will sell. Live foods will die within 5-6 days and you will need 2 deliveries a week to ensure you always have fresh offering for customers. You will need to consult a live foods wholesaler for advice. 
  • Checking equipment.
    • You will need a reliable high grade thermometer or temperature gun to be able to check your enclosures per the LAIA regulations and record the findings as needed.
    • You will need a reliable UV meter to check the UVI (Ultraviolet Index) output of the lights you are running and record the findings as needed
    • Your licensing inspector will want to see the folder or computer file where these recordings are kept.
  • Livestock
    • One of the largest expenses unless you produce your own animals will be livestock. In any case it is highly unlikely initially that you will produce enough livestock to populate a whole shop. You will need a range of species to be able to encourage patrons through the door.
    • There are specialist wholesalers which will help you fill in any gaps in your stocklist so you can offer a more complete range.
    • There is also a private breeder network producing animals as well that may consider selling to you in bulk or at ‘trade’ prices. This may take time to become connected with.
  • Veterinary Services.
    • The business will be expected to have a veterinary surgery that will see your animals in the event of a problem. You should also have their name, practice number and also an out of hours number displayed on a wall in a back room / store / kitchen, so that staff know who to call.
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