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New regulations on breeding dogs

What's the up to date status on this? Graham Watkins gives some advice.

Labrador bitch with puppies

A reader writes: “I have a really good black Labrador that I would like to have a litter from and keep back a puppy. Any others from the litter I will sell and use the profit and have the puppy professionally trained. However, a friend has told me that there is some new law that may prevent me from doing this. Can you please let me know what the situation is?” S. Thomas, Cumbria

Specific laws on breeding dogs

Your friend is right. On 1 October the Animal Welfare Regulations 2018 came into force and there are specific sections relating to 
the breeding of dogs. There are some boxes that need to be ticked:

• Has your bitch proved herself in the field? Too many dogs that have inherent faults are bred from each year. She should be quiet when sitting at a peg or picking-up, she should have a soft mouth and be a natural retriever.
• Have you had any health tests done? You should have the dog’s hips and elbows X-rayed and scored and her eyes tested. If these come back with acceptable results, you can be satisfied that you will be breeding from physically sound stock.

The most “fashionable” stud dogs may 
not necessarily be the most suitable match 
for your bitch. So do some homework and, 
if possible, go to see the dog before your 
bitch comes into season. Obviously, the 
dog should also be health tested.

Only breed from your bitch if she has proven herself in the field

The solutions

If you have gone through the process of health testing and found a suitable sire for your bitch, you should familiarise yourself with the new regulations. They relate to the breeding of dogs as relevant to your circumstances and your local authority’s interpretation of the legislation may well affect whether you decide to breed. Most laws can be difficult for a layperson to understand but there are parts of the Animal Welfare Regulations 2018 (Schedule 6 – Specific conditions: breeding dogs) that absolutely need to be understood and , if necessary, clarified with your local authority.

The biggest change is the reduction of the litter threshold for which a dog breeding licence is required. “After 1 October, anyone breeding three or more litters and selling at least one puppy in a 12-month period will require a dog breeding licence. This is a reduction from the previous threshold of five or more litters.”

breeding dogs

You may consider that this change does not apply to you and that you can go ahead and have your litter as you are only going to breed once. However, as you will more than likely be selling some of the other puppies, according to the wording of the regulation, you may require a dog breeding licence.

“For those breeding one or two litters in a twelve-month period and selling puppies, a licence may be required if you are deemed to be “breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs”.

The Government has provided guidance on what local authority inspectors should consider when assessing whether a breeder meets the business test.” First of all, the changes to the law mean that a lot of dog breeders and people who may breed puppies to sell for financial gain will now be classed as being in the business of breeding, if they make or intend to make a profit and/or breed and sell three or more litters per year. This means that if you breed from your dog to make a profit, even if the dog is your pet, your local authority licensing department may deem you to be “selling dogs as a business,” which means that the rules will apply to you.

gundog training

What does the Kennel Club say?

The Kennel Club advise on their web site that “Breeders who breed a small number of puppies (i.e. fewer than three litters per year) and sell them without making a profit” are deemed to be out of the scope of licensing. This seems to be a very grey area as it infers that although you may fall outside of the licensing requirements due to only breeding one litter in a rolling 12-month period, you may need to apply for a licence if you make a profit from selling any puppies from that one litter. Defra said that it is not their intention for hobby breeders to be captured by this test.

But hobby breeders should beware. This is the one part of the new regulations that may cause real issues. If you are classed as selling dogs as a business, the ways in which you can advertise your dogs and how you must keep records of sales are outlined in the new regulations. It has already been noticed that some gundog advertising portals are asking as a “requirement” that if you want to advertise a litter of puppies you have to put in your licence number. If you fall outside of the licensing requirements, you may not be able to place any adverts as you won’t have or need a licence.

My conclusion

I would recommend contacting your local licensing authority before embarking on breeding from your bitch. All indications are that you would fall outside of the licensing requirements, but it would be far better to check than fall foul of the new legislation. The regulations can be found on the Government website here.