The Animal Welfare (licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

The Animal Welfare Act (2006) is imminently about to undergo some quite radical changes that are going to impact on major areas of animal welfare, including the breeding and selling of puppies in the UK.  In this article, Holidays4Dogs outlines these changes and the significance of new laws that breeders of puppies need to be aware of.

As from the 1st October 2018 the Animal Welfare Act will have several new amendments.  The purpose is to close a number of loopholes that current legislation has allowed, with the main aim to help curb irresponsible breeders such as puppy farmers breeding puppies for profit.

Thus, from 1st October anyone who breeds and sells for profit more than three litters of puppies, (previously five litters) within a twelve month period, must then be licenced as a business with their local authority (Selling Animals as Pets Licence).  This then strongly points to the fact that people must also register with HMRC.

If you breed three litters from pet dogs in the period of twelve months you will deemed to be a business.  However, if you are earning a profit, (fees from the activity of breeding puppies) you will still need a license irrespective of the number of litters produced.  Breeders may be exempt if they are not making a profit, but even if only two puppies are bred and subsequently sold at a high price – though prices are not stipulated – a licence may well still be required.

Breeders are not the only individuals who will be subject to these new regulations.  Anyone who is in the business of moving puppies around, or acting as agents or middle men will also need a licence.  The purpose of this is to clamp down on traders and indeed, the government are considering the possibility of banning third party puppy sales altogether, meaning that only breeders will legally be able to sell puppies.

Other requirements set out in the amended legislation are intended to raise standards of health and welfare of puppies and these include;

  • The puppy must be viewed with its biological mother, unless there is medical evidence to show why this is not possible.

  • There must be an adequate programme of socialization of the puppies and this must be implemented and documented.

  • No puppy under 8 weeks may be sold or separated from its biological mother except on grounds of health and welfare.

  • Licence holders must take all reasonable steps to make sure puppies are free of genetic abnormalities and are of an acceptable temperament and physically fit and healthy.

  • Dogs which have had corrective surgery in order to rectify exaggerated conformation (such as breathing difficulties in bulldogs for example), must not be bred from.

  • Bitches that have had two caesarean sections must not be bred from again.

  • All dogs on the premises must be vaccinated against canine diseases.

Licences will be granted for a period of between 1-3 years on a rolling basis and on a risk based system.  In practice this means that new licence holders will be assessed and provided with a star rating which will indicate their current standards as well as taking into account experience, facilities and feedback from puppy owners.  Those individuals who are awarded a high rating will be inspected less (up to 3 years) and will also attract less expense in terms of annual inspection fees.

Under the new laws breeders will have to keep sales records as well as adhere to new rules on advertising dogs for sale.  Any dog that a breeder advertises must include the following information;

  • The licence holders registered licence number.

  • The name of the issuing authority.

  • A recognisable photograph of the actual dog being advertised.

  • The age of the dog being advertised.

In terms of the breeding and sale of dogs, it is hoped that these new laws will go much further in protecting the health and welfare of puppies in England and should, in theory, go a long way to eradicating unscrupulous puppy farmers and traders, including those people importing puppies from abroad.

This legislation should not affect responsible breeders adversely and the point of the new laws is to tackle irresponsible breeders, puppy farmers and dealers, who have benefited from loopholes in the current legislation.  The stray dog population in the UK alone is phenomenal and rescue charities struggle to find new homes as it is, so the new legislation should go some way to curtailing the numbers of puppies being bred by irresponsible breeders.

Furthermore, the legislation attempts to tackle the issue of the suitability of dogs being bred from in terms of their genetic and physical health – for example bull breeds which are being bred unable to breathe in alarming numbers and where pups subsequently require corrective surgery in order to stop suffering; an issue that is becoming increasingly common in veterinary practices across the UK.

However, if you do breed puppies, even if they are just from pet dogs occasionally, it is important to be aware of the new amendments to the law and what extra measures you may need to take in order to stay within it.

If you are, or plan to breed a litter or litters and are unsure of your obligations under the new legislation, Holidays4Dogs strongly advises you to contact your local authority.

Just how the legislation will operate and continue to be policed remains to be seen, but it would seem that this legislation may curb some of the worrying issues associated with animal welfare that other agencies, such as the UK Kennel club have attempted to tackle, with only partial success.

Holidays4Dogs will follow the situation once new laws come into force in October.