Dog Regulations - England

As of the 1 October, new regulations surrounding the breeding and selling of puppies in England come into force. These regulations aim to tighten regulations surrounding dog breeding as a business or breeding for profit.

Change in litter threshold

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

Business test

The new regulations also highlight that a licence is required if there is any commercial selling of puppies so if;

  1. A) Makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit


  1. B) Earns any commission or fee from the activity, irrespective of the number of litters produced per year.

Again breeders that breed a small number of puppies (i.e. less than three litters per year), and that sell them without making a profit will be exempt from the need for a licence. However, the sale of even a small number of puppies with a high sale price would flag up the need for a licence.

It is not true that everyone who makes more than £1,000 trading income will automatically be classified as a business and as needing a licence. You need to look at the costs incurred in raising a litter (stud fees, food, KC registration, vets fees etc) against the income from selling the puppies. If after looking at it you roughly break even then obviously you are not a business operation and so no breeding licence would be required.

However, it is important to note that a £1,000 trading income (ignoring any costs involved in producing the litter) is a tax threshold. Therefore, if you see an income of £1,000 (again ignoring any costs involved) you have an obligation to declare it to HMRC, at which point the costs incurred will also be assessed to determine whether tax is payable or not.

Defra have released the guidance document (at the bottom of this page) which helps clarify the factors which may indicate that a breeder is operating a business.

Star rating and scoring matrix

There is a new star rating system which will see licensed breeders receiving a rating from 1 to 5 stars based on two factors; welfare standards against which the breeder is operating (i.e. whether the breeder makes  use of health tests) and their risk rating (based on the breeders history of meeting these standards).

A local authority may grant a licence for a period of one, two or three years as part of the star rating licensing model, so a breeder who has a 5 star rating will be allocated a three year licence for instance. A lower star rating means breeders will be inspected more often and pay a higher licence fee.

The only way of gaining a higher star rating is through meeting the higher standards (as outlined in the beneath guidance document). The higher standards are classified into two types, ones which are required and ones which are optional. To qualify as meeting the higher standards, the business needs to achieve all of the required higher standards as well as a minimum of 50% of the optional higher standards.

Guidance Notes for Conditions for Breeding Dogs 2018

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