Dog breeders

Changes to legislation →

On 1st October 2018, the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (external link) came into force. This legislation has changed the way dog breeding is licensed and regulated.

As of 6th April 2020, an amendment to the Animal Welfare (Licensing Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, means that puppies and kittens under the age of 6 months can no longer be sold by a pet shop, commercial dealer or anyone other than a licensed breeder. This includes puppies which are imported.

Anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten under six months must either deal directly with the breeder or an animal re-homing centre.

If you are a dog breeder, you may need an animal activity licence. To obtain a licence, you need to ensure that you meet the specific licence conditions for breeding dogs.

Please note: Due to COVID-19 we have reviewed our processes to ensure we can comply with our legal responsibilities to safely inspect premises and be able to determine applications. We will now be doing this in a two-stage process, which will initially involve a remote assessment, followed by a site inspection. It is hoped that by completing most of the assessment remotely via phone, that the time spent on site to carry out the physical inspection will be considerably less. 

  1. Remote Assessments – These will usually take place within 4 weeks of an application (subject to receipt of all relevant documentation)
  2. Site Inspection – These will usually take place within 8 weeks of an application. 

Do I need a licence?

You will need a licence if you are:

  • Breeding three or more litters of puppies per year (unless you can show that none of the puppies have been sold)
  • Breeding puppies and advertising a business to sell them, with a view to making a profit, regardless of the number of litters produced per year. This is not restricted to registered businesses - individuals can also be classed as a business depending on the extent of their activities.

For further guidance visit GOV.UK (external link).

When do I NOT need a licence?

You will NOT need a licence if you are:

  • A breeder who can provide documented evidence, if requested, that none of the puppies were sold or that you kept all of the puppies yourself. Documented evidence will need to include records of the new owners of all of the puppies and provide details on why there was no transaction involved (including in kind)
  • A registered charity that re-homes puppies that are born to rescue dogs, unless such registered charities are running this element of their operations as a commercial activity
  • Breeding only assistance dogs as defined in the Equality Act 2010 (e.g. Guide Dogs for the Blind)
  • Keeping a dog under the Animal Health Act 1981
  • An organisation regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986
  • Breeding a small number of puppies (i.e. less than 3 litters per year) that are sold without making a profit.

Anyone carrying out this activity without the relevant licence could be prosecuted and face imprisonment of up to 6 months, receive a fine or both.

Fees

To find out how much your animal activity licence will cost, see:

How to apply

Please note:  The licence, if granted, is non-transferrable should the premises / business be sold or taken over by another operator.  If the licence holder dies, the personal representative of the licence holder can take on the licence provided that they inform the local authority within 28 days of the death that they are now the operators.

Inspections

We are required to carry out an inspection of all premises where licensable activities take place before we can approve an application.

As part of your inspection, you will be given a rating based on specific criteria.

What do I do if I already have a licence?

Before the expiry date of your licence, you will need to make an application for a licence under the new regulations.

You are advised to familiarise yourself with the new licence conditions to ensure you are able to comply with these before making a new application - see further guidance on complying with the new conditions (external link).

Public register

We maintain a public register of all the businesses which hold an animal activity licence, a copy of which is available below. This will be updated on a regular basis.

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