Dog Breeding Regulations and Lucy’s Law

On 1st October 2018, new regulations came into effect concerning pet animals in England. These include; dog breeding, dog and cat boarding, selling animals as pets and keeping or training animals for exhibition. The most publicised changes are in regards to dog breeding. The major changes are explained below.

1. Anyone breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period will be required to obtain a licence.

The threshold has been reduced from five litters a year to three. 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). In reality, this is thought to be extremely unlikely.


puppies playing socialisation at Mercer and Hughes Veterinary Surgery

2. Anyone breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs must obtain a licence.

This includes anyone who sells puppies for commercial gain whether by direct sale or commission, and is irrespective of the number of litters produced a year. So, this means that it is not only breeders that require a licence but also those who sell puppies. Advertising sites and companies such as Facebook and Gumtree will require the licence to be emailed/shown to them, and the licence number must be shown on any advert. People advertising without a licence will be reported to their local authorities.

The aim is to focus on capturing traders and those who are not operating to the same standards as good breeders.

puppy with child on sofa

3. The legislation also details new requirements for the health and welfare of puppies.

Formal requirements have been introduced which cover suitable environments, diets and handling of puppies as well as protecting them from pain, suffering, disease and injury. In addition, puppies must be shown with their biological mother to any prospective purchaser.

Breeders must not breed from;

  • Bitches that have had two litters delivered by caesarean section
  • Dogs that have required surgery to rectify an exaggerated conformation that has caused adverse welfare
  • Dogs who require lifelong medication.

puppy cuddle Mercer and Hughes Vets

4. A star rating has been introduced.

Licence holders will be given with a star rating to indicate their standards. This is a one to five star system, with five stars indicating the highest standard. As well as complying with the new regulations, other criteria will be considered 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 every three years.

It is hoped that the use of a star rating will make it easier for the public to identify breeders with high standards and will improve the health and welfare of puppies in the future.

For further reassurance The Kennel Club also run an assured breeder scheme, breeders still have to abide by the new government regulations but membership of the scheme is an indicator of a high standard breeder.

puppy in food bowldiet discussed at puppy pre-school

5. What about puppy farms, imported puppies and puppies being sold cheaply by 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 Pets requirement.

For further information and the full regulations please see;

Lucy’s Law

In addition to the new regulations, the UK government is also planning to ban third party sales of puppies and kittens. This move – known as Lucy’s Law – after Lucy a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that was rescued from a puppy farm, means that breeders of puppies and kittens will have to sell directly to the public and will be directly accountable for the animals that they sell. The only exception to the rule is re-homing organisations.

This law together with the new dog breeder licencing regulations should tighten up how animals are sold for business and help to improve animal welfare.


The Puppy Contract

The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF), in partnership with the RSPCA, have launched a brand new Puppy Contract website to coincide with new Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations launched on 1 October 2018.

The Puppy Contract is a one-stop guide that helps prospective puppy owners get all the information they need before making the decision to buy a new puppy. The website guides them through the process of buying a puppy – from questions they should be asking a breeder to understanding what their answers mean.

Breeders are encouraged to use The Puppy Contract to help them demonstrate that they are breeding responsibly and meeting the higher standards of the new breeding Regulations.

The free, downloadable tool-kit (PDF) was developed by AWF and the RSPCA  to help anyone buying or breeding puppies to do so responsibly and is supported by leading UK animal welfare charities and professional bodies – BVA, Dogs Trust, PDSA, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare and Dog Breeding Reform Group.

New Regulations on Dog Breeding and Buying Puppies