The Kennel Club (KC) has announced plans to register no more than four litters from any one bitch after concerns that so-called ?puppy farmers? are over-breeding animals.

Campaigners have long maintained that the current regulations, which restrict breeding females to one litter per year and six per lifetime, do not go far enough, and can potentially be detrimental to an animal?s welfare.

Bill Lambert, the KC?s health and breeder services manager, said: ?The KC wants to ensure that all breeders put the health and welfare of their puppies and breeding bitches first and this decision underlines its commitment to this issue.

?The law allows bitches to have six litters in a lifetime, but the vast majority of responsible breeders feel that this is too many and that there is potential for this to have a negative impact on the welfare of the bitch.?

The KC is also in discussion with major veterinary organisations, including the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Association, over restrictions on the number of litters born by Caesarean section that may be registered from an individual bitch.

The organisation says that from 1 January 2012, it will no longer register any puppies born by Caesarean section from any bitch that has previously had two such operations, ?except for scientifically proven welfare reasons – applications for which should be made prior to mating.?

Members have also been advised that any Caesarean sections that they perform on a KC-registered bitch should be reported to the club.

Peter Jinman OBE, president of the RCVS, said: ?We are keen to support this move, though in time we would very much like the limit to be reduced to one Caesarean only. But this is the fi rst step, which demonstrates that we are all working towards the same end: an improvement in health for all dogs.?