Dog breeding

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) Regulations 2018 came into force in October 2018 and covers the breeding of dogs. The legislation defines dog breeding as, either or both of the following:

  • breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period
  • breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs.

You may also wish to review the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973.

To determine if you are a business, you will need to consider the 'business test'.

Dog breeding business test

A business is defined in the legislation as an operator who:

  1. makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit, or
  2. earns any commission or fee from the activity.

When the business test applies, it's irrespective of the number of litters produced per year and is not restricted to 'registered' businesses. Individuals can be classed as a business, depending on the extent of their activities.

In the 2016 Government Budget, an allowance was announced of £1,000 for trading income from April 2017. Anyone falling under this threshold would not need to be considered on the context of determining whether they are a business.

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states that these conditions are not the exclusive factors to be considered, but are examples and other factors such as those listed in the badges of trade set out by the HMRC are also relevant. The guidance assists inspectors, but there is an element of judgement in deciding upon the business test. If you aren't sure if you're classed as a business, please email licensing@sholland.gov.uk with the details of your business and we can help determine this.

Dog breeding licensing

The following listed activities require a licence:

  • 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
  • factors considered when determining whether someone is 'advertising a business' include:
    • the number, frequency and/or volume of sales (systematic and repeated transactions using the same means of advertising are likely to indicate a commercial activity)
    • high volumes of animals sold or advertised for sale could indicate a business
    • low volumes of animals sold or advertised could indicate a business where high sales prices or large profit margins are involved
    • high range and variability in the breeds traded (a wide variety of breeds being advertised could indicate the commercial nature of the activity)
    • high numbers of advertisements of puppies for sale, including on classified websites, could indicate commercial behaviour, even where there is no actual sale taking place via the internet. This could be high numbers of advertisements at any one time or over a short period of time, and/or regularly
    • advertising through a variety of sites, forums or media could indicate a commercial activity.

Exemptions

The following listed activities do not require a licence:

  • where three or more litters of puppies per year are born, but there is documented evidence available that none of the puppies (or dogs) have been sold, or if all of the puppies have been kept. Documented evidence includes records of the new owners of all of the puppies and will explain why there was no transaction involved, including in kind
  • registered charities that rehome 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 (for example 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 (for example less than 3 litters per year), and sell them without making a profit.

Apply for a dog breeding licence

We recommend referring to the guidance and legislation when making an application. 

Please note that application fees associated with the type of licence must be paid at the time of applying. The compliance fees are paid after the inspection is completed and the length of the licence is determined. Please contact us on licensing@sholland.gov.uk if you have any questions.

Checking dog breeder licences

When buying a puppy, ensure you buy from a licensed breeder. Since October 2018, all new animal welfare licence holders must clearly display their licence on their premises and display their name and licence number on any website used to sell puppies. These licences also contains a star rating which the business has achieved. We recommend licensed breeders display the star rating on any website they use, but is not a legal requirement.

If a licence number is not displayed, you can check for a licence by visiting the South Holland licence register online or by emailing the name and address of the seller to licensing@sholland.gov.uk.

Raise a concern about a dog breeder

The relevant body may not always be the council when reporting concerns. It is important you report issues to the correct body as soon as possible. Concerns relating to a dog breeding licence, such as breaching of conditions or the state of the premises, please email licensing@sholland.gov.uk with details of the premises. If the issue is urgent, please call 01775 761161 and clearly state your concerns and your reason for them. All matters of concern will be investigated and complaints are kept confidential.