Dog Breeding Regulations - England

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As of the 1 October 2018, new regulations surrounding the breeding and selling of puppies in England came into force. These aimed to tighten regulations surrounding dog breeding as a business or breeding for profit.

Change in litter threshold

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

Business test

The regulations also highlight that a licence is required if there is any commercial selling of puppies. Whether this be by sale, commission, fee from activity etc. irrespective of the number of litters produced per year.

Breeders who 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.

What if I have more than a £1,000 trading income?

It is not true that everyone who makes more than £1,000 trading income will automatically be classified as a business and need a licence. You need to look at the costs incurred in raising a litter (stud fees, food, KC registration, vet fees etc.) against the income from selling the puppies. If after looking 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 have 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 which helps clarify this.

Star rating and scoring matrix

There is a star rating system which will see licensed breeders receiving a rating from one to five stars based on two factors;

  1. Welfare standards against which the breeder is operating (i.e. whether the breeder makes use of health tests)
  2. The risk rating (based on the breeder’s 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 five-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. 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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