What is a Licensed Breeder?

There is always confusion in the breeding industry about what a reputable breeder is and the truth is, anyone can be a breeder and take good care of their animals. 

However, there are certain standards that breeders who sell dogs have to adhere to and this where licensing comes into the resoponsibility of the breeder.

Main questions

What does a licensed breeder do?

A licensed breeder in the UK is someone who holds a local authority license to breed dogs, in compliance with specific animal welfare regulations. The key points about licensed breeders include:

  1. Legal Requirements: Breeders must comply with the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, which set standards for animal care and welfare. This includes ensuring suitable environments, diets, and protection from pain, suffering, injury, and disease.

  2. Licensing Criteria: A licence is required if a breeder breeds three or more litters of puppies in a year or if they carry out breeding as a business to make a profit. The local authority evaluates applications based on the breeder’s ability to meet these standards, and licenses must be prominently displayed at the premises.

  3. Inspection and Compliance: Local authorities conduct inspections, sometimes unannounced, to ensure compliance with the regulations. Breeders are rated on a star system, with higher ratings leading to fewer inspections and lower fees. Breeders must keep up-to-date records and make them available for inspection.

  4. Breeding Standards: Breeding dogs must be fit for breeding, considering their genotype, phenotype, and overall health to prevent any detrimental effects on their welfare or that of their offspring. Annual veterinary checks are typically required.

  5. Record Keeping: Detailed records of each breeding dog, including microchip details, breeding history, veterinary treatments, and health records, must be maintained. Records of puppy sales, including microchip numbers and sale dates, are also required and safely stored with breeding licence software such as Digital PawPrint

  6. Sales and Advertising: Licensed breeders must not sell puppies younger than 8 weeks and must ensure that any advertisements include the license number and details of the issuing authority. Puppies must be shown with their biological mother unless separation is necessary for health reasons.

Licensed breeders must follow strict guidelines and maintain high standards of animal welfare to ensure the health and well-being of both breeding dogs and puppies. Compliance with these regulations helps protect the animals and ensures ethical breeding practices.

Who is exempt from a breeding licence

In the UK, there are specific exemptions where individuals do not require a breeding license. These exemptions are outlined under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 and related guidance. Here are the key exemptions:

  1. Small-Scale Breeders: Individuals who breed less than three litters of puppies in a 12-month period and do not sell the puppies as part of a business are exempt from needing a breeding license. This applies to hobby breeders who do not meet the threshold of litters or the business test​​.

  2. Not for Business: Breeders who can demonstrate that they are not carrying out breeding activities with the intention of making a profit or as part of a business do not need a license. Factors considered include the volume of sales and the consistency with which dogs are bred and sold. Even if fewer than three litters are bred, if there is evidence of trading activity (e.g., regular advertisements for puppies), a license may still be required​​.

  3. Charity Organisations: Registered charities that rehome dogs and may occasionally have puppies as a result of taking in pregnant bitches typically do not require a breeding license, as their primary purpose is rescue and rehoming rather than breeding for sale​​.

  4. Family and Friends: Individuals who breed a litter from their pet dog and give the puppies to family or friends without any financial transaction are generally exempt from needing a license, as this does not constitute a business activity​​.

These exemptions aim to ensure that the licensing regulations target commercial breeding operations while allowing hobby breeders and individuals with occasional litters to operate without the need for a license, provided they meet the specified conditions.

For those uncertain about whether they need a license, it’s advisable to consult local authority guidelines or seek legal advice to ensure compliance with the current regulations.

More articles