Dog breeders

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.

The new licence will be referred to as an Animal Activity Licence. In order to obtain a licence, you need to ensure that you meet the specific licence conditions for breeding dogs.

Do I need a licence?

In scope criteria

Activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria are subject to licensing:

  • Anyone breeding three or more litters of puppies per year (unless they can show that none of the puppies have been sold).
  • Anyone breeding puppies and advertising a business of selling them, as defined under the business test outlined below. This is irrespective 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.

Business test

The Regulations specify two example business tests to be considered when determining whether an activity is considered commercial, and therefore within scope. These are, whether the operator:

  • Makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit, or
  • Earns any commission or fee from the activity.

Out of scope criteria

Activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria are not subject to licensing:

  • Breeders who can provide documented evidence, if requested, that none of the puppies were sold or that they kept all of the puppies themselves. 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).
  • Registered charities that re-home puppies that are born to rescue dogs, unless such registered charities are in practice running this element of their operations as a commercial activity.
  • Anyone breeding only assistance dogs as defined in the Equality Act 2010 (e.g. Guide Dogs for the Blind).
  • Anyone keeping a dog under the Animal Health Act 1981.
  • Organisations regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
  • Breeders that breed a small number of puppies (i.e. less than 3 litters per year), and that sell them without making a profit.

Fees and charges

The new legislation has resulted in changes to the animal activity licence fee structure.

These fees have been set in accordance with this legislation.

Making an application

The application form has been produced by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). 

Supporting documents can also be alternatively posted to:

The Licensing Team
PO Box 100
Wigan
WN1 3DS

Please note: The appropriate fee should always be paid online before submitting the application.

Inspections

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

A ratings system has also been introduced where you will be given a rating dependant on a specified criteria.

Guidance and conditions

The general conditions set by the legislation are as follows, and also contain helpful guidance on complying with these conditions.

Existing licence holders

Licences held under the current system for dog breeding will continue until the expiry date shown on the licence. Prior to the expiry date of this licence, existing licence holders need to make an application for a licence under the new regulations and comply with the new requirements.

If you are the holder of an existing licence or registration you are advised to familiarise yourself with the new licence conditions, to ensure you are able to comply with these before making an application for a new licence.

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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