Opening up and running a pet store could be an animal lover’s dream come true, but it’s important to consider the particular hazards and requirements that accompany handling live animals and large equipment. This article outlines how to set up a business and establish a successful pet store in Australia.

Business Plan

Before taking steps to establish your new business, carefully map out details of the business first in your business plan.

What will your pet store offer?

You may want to conduct research about the industry and compare different pet stores. To be competitive in the market, you want to have an edge; something that makes your pet store a little different. You might think about the kinds of animals you would like to stock, for example, you could have a pet store with all sorts of creatures, or you could decide that fish are your speciality and start up a specialist retail aquarium. You can also include the kinds of services and products your pet store will offer, for example, dog walking services or animal medication. Having a clear vision of how you intend your pet store to look during the early planning stages of starting a business is vital to a smooth set up

How do you plan to fund your pet store?

Planning out your new business’ finances is crucial to its success. You will need to think about start up costs, as well as whether and when you will be able to make a living from the business. You may need to apply for a bank loan or seek an alternative form of investment with the help of a lawyer. You should also think about the costs and cash flow projections of operating your business, approaching an accountant if you are unsure.

Establishing your brand

Your business plan should include the details of how you plan to establish a successful brand through marketing strategies. The first step to having a well-known brand is to come up with a winning business name. It’s usually beneficial to throw ideas around about potential business names early, as this give you time to research other companies, check the ASIC register to see if anyone else has the same or similar name, and also consider whether you intend to trademark your name and logo.

Next, come up with a marketing strategy that includes developing your business’s website and a plan for engaging with potential customers on social media. It’s worth doing your own research or bringing on a marketing specialist to assist you with advertising and Search Engine Optimisation.

Business Structure and Registration

Once you’ve established a solid business plan and have secured funds, it’s time to set up and register your business with the relevant authorities.

Structure

First, you’ll need to decide what type of business structure you’d like to operate your pet store under. For example, setting up as a sole trader is simple and easy, but it exposes you to personal liability. On the other hand, setting up as a limited company (Pty Ltd) costs more to set up and is more complex. However, it protects you and your assets and can be a better option to facilitate a growing business. If you set up as a company, you’ll need a company constitution.

You should choose your business structure based on how you foresee your business growing in the future. For this reason, deciding on a structure after you have established a business plan is beneficial, as you will likely have a better idea of where your business is going and how it plans to grow.

You can also decide to join a pet store franchise. A franchise network provides support from the franchisor and often means you have an established reputation in the market.

Registering a Business

What you must register will depend on the kind of structure you use. Some fundamental things you will need to register are:

  • Business name and Australian Business Number (or Australian Company Number for a company) through ASIC; and
  • Tax File Number (TFN), Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Pay As You Go Tax (PAYG) through the ATO.

Premises, Equipment and Licenses

Choosing the right premises in the right location can be a critical deciding factor in your business’ success. This decision will likely be based on the kind of pet store you’re hoping to set up, the kinds of animals you’ll stock and the services and products you’ll offer. Once you have decided on the right premises for your pet store, you’ll need to enter into a commercial lease if you don’t intend to buy the premises. During the leasing process, you must think about the equipment you will need such as storage and display cases for animals, or water filtration systems if you are setting up an aquarium. Some equipment you may be able to purchase and install yourself, such as computers and phones, but some of it may need to be included in the fit out of the premises, and should be included in the written lease agreement.

If you are operating a pet store online, you must ensure that you have the required policies in place for an online retail business such as a Terms of Use, Terms and Conditions and a Privacy Policy. If you are selling or facilitating the distribution of live animals through an online business, you must refer to the local and state legislative requirements detailed below, and think about coming up with a policy to ensure animals are protected and that your liability is limited. The website Gumtree has a comprehensive ‘Pets Policy’, based on RSPCA policies, which you could look at for inspiration.

Also, find out what licenses you will need, such as for water and waste, by checking out the ABLIS website.

Obligations and Compliance

Local Council Requirements

Get in touch with your Local Council to find out what specific requirements they have for pets and pet stores in their area. If you don’t make sure that you comply with the requirements of a particular local council, your business can be shut down before it has had a chance to start.

Codes of Practice 

Each state has a set of codes and policies for animal welfare, which you must comply with. For example, the NSW Department of Primary Industries has code that covers animals in pet shops, as well as specific codes for pet grooming, boarding for cats and dogs and the keeping and trading of birds. See the codes online for your state: QLDVICACTTASNTWA and SA.

State Legislation – Micro-chipping

Microchips are used as a form of electronic identification for pets, usually limited to domestic cats and dogs. Microchipping is mandatory for in ACT, NSW, QLD, VIC and WA, and is compulsory in TAS. So, if you are selling dogs, cats or other domestic animals in these states, ensure that you are vigilant about complying with micro-chipping requirements. Remind new owners to make sure they update their address and contact details on the database if they change or if they transfer the animal to a new owner.

ACT: Section 84 of the Domestic Animals Act 2000 and Regulation 7 of the Domestic Animals Regulation 2001 requires that cats and dogs are microchipped prior to sale/transfer and by 12 weeks of age, as well as what information must be recorded in the microchip database.

NSW: Section 8 of the Companion Animals Act 1998 requires microchipping before sale/transfer and by 12 weeks of age and regulation 8 of the Companion Animals Regulation 2008 outlines what information must be recorded.

QLD: Sections 13 and 14 of the Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act 2008 requires microchipping. Schedule 2 of that Act and Schedule 4 of the Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Regulation 2009 outline what information must be recorded.

TAS: Section 15A of the Dog Control Act 2000 and part 3 of the Cat Management Act 2009 requires microchipping of dogs and cats by six months of age.

VIC: Section 10C of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 requires that cats and dogs be microchipped as a condition of registration compulsory once the animal is three months old). However, the ‘prior to sale/transfer’ requirement under section 12A only applies to domestic animal businesses aka pet stores. S12A(2) also requires that ‘domestic animal businesses’ must display the animal’s microchip number, breeder registration number and name of issuing Council in any advertisements for the sale of that animal.

WA: Amendments to the Dog Act 1976 in 2013 have made microchipping of dogs compulsory in WA from 1st November 2015.

Insurance

Limiting your liability when running a business is very important. When you have set up your pet store, you should, at the very least, get income protection, general insurance (for equipment, pets in care, etc.) and public liability insurance. Becoming a member of an industry group, such as Pets Australia, can help you work out what insurance you need and get a good deal through the group’s service provider.

Key Takeaways

Running a business can be extremely rewarding, especially if you’re setting up a pet store and get to hang out with animals all day! Don’t get caught up in the cuteness and ensure that you properly adhere to the steps for setting up and registering your business, finding a suitable location or domain from which to run your business, and ensure that at all times you are compliant with state legislation and industry codes.

If you’d like assistance from a lawyer to set up your pet store, get in touch on 1300 544 755 today or fill out the form on this page.

Annie Gunn

Next Steps

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