PUPPIES are for life, not just for Christmas, and dogs should always be with their mother until at least eight weeks old. This is the advice being given as new, stricter rules are introduced on

caring for animals.

From January 1 a five-star rating system has been in force meaning all businesses that care for animals, from selling goldfish to letting people walk with an alpaca must display their score.

Guidelines include a requirement for each dog at a home boarder business to have its own room, with a window. This could now mean that some businesses will have to cut the number of animals they can care for, while some can extend their services.

A certificate showing the rating, from one to the top five stars, must now be displayed at all catteries, kennels and home boarders.

Businesses with a one-star rating have a year to make improvements or risk losing their licence.

The new England-wide rules have come in to improve animal welfare, says head of licensing at Wiltshire Council, Linda Holland. “This is all about making sure animal welfare is at the heart of everything. This is a positive step for the public who can use the ratings as a basis for asking more questions. Just as you would do your research when buying a car, so owners should when they buy animals or leave their pets with boarders.

“The certificate must be on display so owners can make informed choice about the service.

“It has been a challenge getting ready but it can only be a good thing for businesses that want to improve, as a high-star rating will improve their reputation.”

Wiltshire currently has 148 home boarders, 50 catteries and kennels and in total 269 premises housing animals that require a licence to operate.

Unannounced visits will take place up to every year to make sure petting zoos, pets shops and kennels are looking after animal welfare of all animals.