The Animal Welfare Regulation 2018: The breeding and selling of your litters and how it affects you
Written by Marisa Heath, Lead for the Canine & Feline Sector Group on Defra Expert Panel and All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare Co-ordinator
In October 2018, new Regulations come into force around a number of activities involving pet animals in England. These include Dog Breeding, Dog and Cat Boarding, Selling Animals as Pets, Hiring out Horses and Keeping or Training Animals for Exhibition. In regards to Dog Breeding, there will be a Schedule of conditions that breeders will have to meet in order to obtain a licence and a set of Guidance notes on how they will be measured in doing this. The
scope will widen meaning more breeders will require a licence. This will have significant changes to the way that breeders and local authorities operate with a requirement to meet set welfare conditions. The following points set out the key changes.
1. The new scope requires that a licence is obtained by anyone “breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period.”
The new Regulations reduce the threshold from 5 litters before requiring a licence to 3 litters.
The only exclusion to this is if the person carrying on the activity provides documentary
evidence that none of them have been sold (whether as puppies or as adult dogs).
2. The new scope requires that anyone breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs obtain a licence.
The three litters are not the only reason why a licence could be required. The new Regulations
set out that a licence will be required if there is any commercial selling of puppies and kittens.
Indeed, it states that a licence will be applicable if the subject:
(a) Makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit.
(b) Earns any commission or fee from the activity, 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.
Again breeders that breed a small number of puppies (i.e. less than 3 litters per year), and
that sell them without making a profit will be exempt, however the sale of even a small
number of puppies with a high sale price would flag up the need for a licence.
3. The Pet Vending Schedule which is separate from the Dog Breeding Schedule sets out that those who are not breeders but are in the business of selling dogs will require a licence.
It is not only breeders who will require a licence, those who are moving puppies around will
require a licence and anyone charging a fee or commission for a puppy will also be captured.
There is a real focus on capturing traders and those who are not operating to the same
standards as the good breeders. Additionally, the Government is considering whether to ban
all third party sales of puppies and this could mean only breeders will be able to sell puppies
4. The new legislation is structured around the requirement to meet the 5 welfare needs and will involved proving to the Inspector that you have robust procedures in place.
The Schedules are set out under the following structure: Suitable Environment, Suitable Diet,
Monitoring of Behaviour & Training of Animals, Animal Handling & Interaction, Protection
from Pain, Suffering, Disease & Injury. Beneath these are conditions to meet to provide those
requirements and examples include the need to provide the right diet appropriate to the age
and condition of the dog, the need to interact with, and socialise, puppies, the need to
provide adequate resources such as toys, beds, bowls etc for the number of dogs under the
There also needs to be an emergency plan in place. Licensees will have to have
Written Procedures around the cleaning of the licensed facilities, their feeding regimes,
prevention and control of the spread of disease and monitoring and ensuring the health and
welfare of their dogs. This can be quite simply set out for those breeding from a home
environment and is really just a record of how you manage your dogs.
5. There are new requirements being introduced around the health and welfare of the puppy.
New formal requirements have been introduced following concerns raised by welfare organisations and vets over the last few years. These include:
i. The requirement for the puppy to be shown with its biological mother to any
prospective purchaser unless there are evidenced medical grounds as to why this
cannot be the case.
ii. The facility having in place an adequate programme to socialise puppies and
prepare them for life in the environment in which they are going to live.
iii. Licence holders taking all reasonable steps to ensure that the dogs are of good
physical and genetic health, of acceptable temperament and fit for function (e.g.
be able to see, breathe normally, and be physically fit and able to exercise freely).
iv. Not breeding from dogs that have required surgery to rectify an exaggerated
conformation that has caused adverse welfare, or require lifelong medication.
v. Not breeding from bitches that have had two litters delivered by caesarean
6. A Risk Rating structure around the Regulations will mean 1-3 year licences depending on your standard of care.
A risk based system will be used when issuing licences so licence holders will be given with
a star rating to indicate their standards. As well as meeting the conditions set out beneath
the Regulations, other criteria will be taken into account such as the length of time the
applicant has been in the business, their experience, size of their facility and any feedback
from puppy buyers.
Those who obtain a high rating will be inspected less frequently, up to three years, as they will be seen as lower risk and so obtaining a licence will be cheaper for them. Those who are seen as a higher risk with a low rating will still be subject to annual inspection and fees. It is felt this is a fair way of rewarding those meeting high standards of care.
7. How will you be able to meet the higher standards and are they achievable?
The Schedules set out the minimum welfare standards by law which must be met to obtain a
licence. Failure to meet these conditions will mean a licence will not be issued unless it is a
minor problem like paperwork which needs amending. Within the document are a number
of higher standards and if the applicant meets these higher standards they will be given a
high rating to reflect they have gone over the minimum standards. These higher standards
were written with the expertise of organisations like the Kennel Club, British Veterinary
Association and the RSPCA.
Some examples include the requirement for the puppy to be checked by a veterinarian before sale with proof of such held and available to the puppy buyer, that there must be a competent person on site at all times which is more difficult for large scale facilities to provide than a home breeder and that a puppy contract must be used.
8. How will fairness and consistency will be achieved through inspection?
With the Regulations is a requirement for local authority inspectors to be trained in order to
obtain consistency across authorities on how inspections are carried out. They will have to
attend full training and they will also have comprehensive guidance in which to follow. There
will also be guidance on fees so that inspectors have an outline of what to charge depending
on the size of the business. This should move the system away from one local authority area
charging an acceptable fee and then a neighbouring authority charging an astronomical fee
which makes it unfair for applicants across the country.
9. Public education and campaigning will be an important part of encouraging a move towards higher standards in breeding.
The issuing of a star rating within the risk based system means those breeders who are
meeting high health and welfare standards can be identified but we need to get the public
to be aware of this and to look for breeders who have been awarded a high rating where
possible. The key stakeholders including pet industry, welfare organisations and veterinary
bodies will be working to promote this system and to ensure those doing the right thing are
10. What about all of the puppy farms, imported puppies and poor welfare puppies being sold cheaper than those breeders who meet the welfare standards set out in the Regulations?
Anyone selling puppies in England will need a licence so even those breeding outside of
England will need to apply for a Selling Animals as Pets Licence. Wales and Scotland are also
looking at changing the way they regulate breeders as well. Additionally, there is a lot of work
going on around tackling the importation of puppies and any of the people bringing puppies
into the UK will need to have a licence to sell those dogs again under the Selling Animals as
Written by Marisa Heath, Lead for the Canine & Feline Sector Group on Defra Expert Panel
and All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare Co-ordinator
About the Author
Marisa Heath, Lead for the Canine & Feline Sector Group on Defra Expert Panel and All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare Co-ordinatorMore articles from Marisa Heath