Dog breeders

Updated guidance for February 2022 →

DEFRA have updated the guidance notes / conditions that accompany The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 and these came into force on 1 February 2022. Full details of the amended guidance is available on GOV.UK (external link)

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 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 on the conditions 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.


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.


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.

© Wigan Council