Strict new rules on animal sales could see a growth in the black market.

That’s the fear of one councillor after a briefing on what breeders, pet shops, kennels and catteries have to do.

The borough council licensing manager Kathryn Ashton told members of the licensing committee that all such businesses now faced inspection and being given a star rating out of five. But there were concerns.

She said: “People might think it’s like the scores on the doors for food hygiene. You’d naturally think that a five-star rating indicated that one business was better than one with a three-star rating. But it’s not necessarily the case.”

Ms Ashton explained that there were two sets of standards – minimum and a higher.

To get a five-star rating, all minimum standards and half the higher standards must be met.

She added: “For some animals, rabbits and birds, for example, the higher standards are particularly stringent.

"There are good businesses which have cages for their rabbits that are smaller than the higher standards by inches and they can’t upgrade without redeveloping their whole site at too high a cost.

"So a very good business like that will never be able to reach the higher standard."

Chairman of the committee Coun Vera Tomlinson added: “That seems unfair. It could be that in these cases a business would decide to stop selling rabbits or birds to avoid failing to reach the higher standards.

“That could mean people start selling animals on the black market through the internet, and we’d have no way of knowing.”

Sarah Wells, the manager of Pet Shed an independent pet shop based at Studley Grange in Swindon felt that the new regulations were overdue.

She said: “We’re just an independent business, but if we can make the changes, then so can other shops, especially the chains.

“We got a five-star rating, because of the high model conditions set by the council. I don’t think the new regulations can be too stringent.

"This is about selling a life and the standards have to be really high.”

“I think the regulations are a good idea because they’re trying to make it the same across the country- some places didn’t have the high standards we have here and now we’ll all have to meet the same standards.”

Every business in Swindon will be inspected before a licence is granted and at least once during the licence period.