Legislation, Enforcement and Self-Regulation
Dog breeders must obey strict animal welfare laws. Sadly, some puppy farmers flout the laws and act illegally.
The main applicable regulations are
1. Animal Welfare Act 2006;
2. The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, Schedule 6;
3. Sale of Goods Act 1979.
Regulations to ban the sale of puppies via a commercial third party will come into effect in England from April 2020. Similar regulations are expected in Wales and Scotland.
Regulations for the breeding of dogs were updated in England from 1st October 2018 and include the following provisions:
Anyone breeding three or more litters and selling at least one puppy in a 12 month period requires a dog breeding licence.
For those breeding one or two litters in a 12 month period and selling puppies, a licence may be required if they are deemed to be “breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs”. The government has provided guidance on what local authority inspectors should consider when assessing whether a breeder meets the business test. These full guidelines can be found here.
A breeder can breed as many puppies as they like without a licence if the person carrying on the activity (breeding) provides documentary evidence that none of them have been sold (whether as puppies or as adult dogs).
Breeders who breed a small number of puppies (i.e. fewer than three litters per year), and sell them without making a profit are deemed to be out of the scope of licensing.
There are certain factors that would trigger the need for a breeding licence such as “High volumes of animals sold or advertised for sale could indicate a business; and low volumes of animals sold or advertised could indicate a business where high sales prices or large profit margins are involved”.
In summary, anyone with a dog breeding licence must follow these regulations:
Not sell puppies under the age of eight weeks. No puppy aged under 8 weeks may be transported without its biological mother except if a vet agrees for health or welfare reasons that it may be so transported, or in an emergency.
A puppy must be shown with its biological mother to any prospective purchaser unless there are evidenced medical grounds as to why this cannot be the case.
Puppy sales must be completed in the presence of the new owner – preventing online sales where prospective buyers have not seen the animal first.
The full regulations are available here.