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Is Puppy Farming Illegal?

A puppy farm is where many dogs are continually bred and puppies sold with disregard for their health in order to maintain low overheads and maximise profits. Puppy farmers are very different to reputable dog breeders. 

It is illegal when breeders do not obey dog breeding laws or breach animal welfare standards.

Whilst there are strict laws regulating dog breeding and the sale of dogs, a puppy farmer may be ignorant of dog breeding laws or deliberately engaging in criminal activity.

In a recent court case, a local council repeatedly warned a dog breeder to apply for a dog breeding license. The breeder had been reported to the council after one of the puppies they sold had died. The puppy farmer ignored the council’s request and was eventually found guilty in court, but not before they had allegedly pocketed more than £1 million in revenue from breeding 190 litters of puppies from 38 different dog breeds over three years!  In this classic case, the puppy farmer had used multiple identities to con the public and sell the puppies.

On 1st October 2018, new regulations came into force to regulate breeding including:

• Ensuring that breeders must show puppies alongside their mother before a sale is made.
• Tightening regulations so that puppy sales are completed in the presence of the new owner – preventing online sales where prospective buyers have not seen the animal first.
• Banning licensed sellers from dealing in puppies and kittens under the age of eight weeks.
• Regulating adverts, including on the internet, by ensuring licensed sellers of all pets include the seller’s licence number, country of origin and country of residence of the pet in any advert for sale.
• Introducing a new “star rating” for dog breeders, pet shops and others to help people rate them on their animal welfare standards.

From April 2020, the sale of puppies and kittens by pet shops and other commercial third-party sellers was banned in England – unless they have bred the animals themselves. We have campaigned for years for this, as it is one of several effective ways of helping to end heartless puppy farming.

Sadly, criminals will try to ignore the regulation and attempt to sell puppies often using the internet. Survey data, interviews and investigations reveal that puppy farmers and traders are just one part of a bigger problem.

At each stage of the puppy selling cycle, different public bodies, industry participants and consumers enable this business model. Naturewatch Foundation strongly supports the Pet Advisory Advertising Group PAAG scheme to help regulate the sale of puppies over the internet, but more must be done to ensure this self-regulatory scheme is effective.

Puppy farming is flourishing in the UK because many of establishments are not licensed, regulated and operate outside of the law. Responsibility for enforcing the dog breeding laws fall to local authorities many of which have overstretched resources.

Our investigation of licensing practices around the UK shows that different local authorities interpret their license conditions in different ways. We have written to local councils across the country asking them to openly publish information of licensed breeders in their area. We think a national database of dog breeders is urgently required.

Raising and selling puppies for financial gain depends on food supplies, insurance, advertising and veterinary care. Throughout the breeding cycle, private manufacturers and service providers deliver the means to run a puppy farming business.

Finally, when licensing, supplies and the route to market have been addressed, puppy farmers still need one essential form of help – public support. Unknowingly, unintentionally, the buying public provides the final piece of the business cycle – finance. Paying cash for puppies without knowing how and where they were raised gives farmers and dealers the means and motive to breed litter after litter, safe in the knowledge that one of us will pay.