FAQs Dog breeding regulations in England

This frequently asked questions document applies to those breeding in England only. No changes to existing breeding regulations are currently due to be made in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

The new regulations will be in force from 1st October 2018, and can be viewed here.


  1. Will I require a dog breeding licence?

A breeding licence will be required for anyone breeding three or more litters in a 12 month period unless they can show that none of the puppies have been sold. This is a reduction from the previous litter test of five or more litters”

There are exemptions for breeders of assistance dogs and breeders breeding three or more litters in a 12 month period if the breeder can provide evidence that none of their puppies have been sold (either as puppies or adult dogs). 


  1. What is defined as a business that breeds and sells dogs?

As is the case currently, the circumstances which a local authority must take into account in determining whether an activity is being carried out in the course of a business include, for example, whether the operator (a) makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit, or (b) earns any commission or fee from the activity and/or advertises a business of selling dogs.

A profit seeking motive is not the only marker set as to whether someone is operating a business and Defra has made it clear that they do not intend to target hobby breeders under the regulations. It is important to note that the test of whether or not a breeder is running a business is determined by HMRC’s 9 badges of trade (applicable to everyone and not just dog breeders), which can be viewed here.

Defra has provided guidance on how the HMRC badges of trade are to be applied to those breeding dogs. The following factors have been identified as indicators that a breeder may be operating a business -

  • High volumes of animals sold or advertised for sale could indicate a business.
  • Low volumes of animals sold or advertised could indicate a business where high sales prices or large profit margins are involved.
  • The number, frequency and/or volume of sales - systematic and repeated transactions using the same means of advertising are likely to indicate a commercial activity.
  • The full Defra guidance on what factors may indicate a business can be found here

The new regulations cover dog breeders, dog and cat boarders, pet vendors, those running horse riding establishments and those exhibiting animals in the course of a business. The litter threshold, as an addition to the business test, is unique to dog breeding and has been included so that those who breed three or more litters and sell puppies, but who are not in the business of breeding and selling dogs require a licence. 


  1. Is it true that I will need a licence if I make more than £1,000 selling my puppies?

We are aware of suggestions that there is a £1,000 threshold for which those above need a licence and those who are below will not need a licence, this is only partially true.

The guidance document states that those who fall under a threshold of £1,000 of trading income will by default be considered not to be running a business. However, this does not mean that everyone who makes more than £1,000 trading income will be classified as a business and need a licence.

This £1,000 trading income is a tax threshold. It applies to anyone regardless of whether they’re selling dogs, lemonade from a stall, homemade arts and crafts etc. Those who bring in less than £1,000 of income (ignoring any costs involved) have no obligation to declare this income to HMRC. On crossing the £1,000 trading income threshold then income should be declared to HMRC, at which point the costs incurred will also be assessed to determine whether tax is payable or not.


For illustrative purposes, let’s consider a dog breeder who has two litters producing four puppies.

Costs incurred as a result of breeding (figures are for illustrative purposes / tending to lower end of scale) –

Stud fee x 2 - £1,000

Food, whelping box, toys, vaccination etc - £450

One caesarian section - £600+

KC registration - £68

Total costs – ~£2,118 (illustrative approximation)


The breeder keeps one puppy for themselves, and sells the other three puppies for £700 each, £2,100 of ‘income’ generated. Based on this illustrative example the breeder has actually made an £18 loss.

The breeder would have crossed the HMRC £1,000 trading income threshold, they would need to inform HMRC. However, as they made a loss there should be no tax to pay. Additionally despite exceeding the £1,000 threshold it is clearly not a business operation, so no breeding licence would be required.


  1. How do I get a dog breeding licence?

To get a dog breeding licence you must apply to your local authority. Most have online application forms available and a fee will be payable (the amount of which varies depending on the local authority and the star rating of the breeder see questions 6 & 7). Upon receiving an application the local authority will appoint an inspector along with a vet to ensure your premises meet the licensing requirements.


  1. What are the licensing requirements?

The licensing requirements are detailed here.

It is important to note that although the guidance relating to the licensing requirements is lengthy, it is similar to the 49 page Model Licensing Conditions which have long been in use by local authorities and can be found here.

However, what is different is that the updated requirements will be linked to a star rating system which should be better for responsible breeders. See questions below for further information.


  1. How often will I have to renew my dog breeding licence?

A local authority may grant a licence for a period of one, two or three years as part of a star rating licensing model i.e. a 1* breeder will be inspected more frequently than a 5* breeder. A 1* breeder will need to renew their licence annually, while a 5* breeder will only need to renew their licence every three years.

The scoring matrix (reproduced by kind permission from Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.)


Scoring matrix

Welfare Standards



Minor Failings

(existing business that are failing to meet minimum standards)

Minimum Standards

(as laid down in the schedules and guidance)

Higher Standards

(as laid down in the guidance)

Low Risk

1 Star

1 yr licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 12 month period

3 Star

2 yr licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 24 month period

5 Star

3 yr licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 36 month period

Higher Risk

1 Star

1 yr licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 12 month period

2 Star

1 yr licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 12 month period

4 Star

2 yr licence

Min 1 unannounced visit within 24 month period

The full licensing model can be viewed here


  1. What factors will determine my star rating?

Defra’s guidance advises breeders on steps they will need to take to achieve a 5 star rating and be awarded a 3 year licence. A lower star rating means breeders will be inspected more often and pay a higher licence fee. Breeders who are members of a UKAS Accredited Scheme such as the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme and who have been accredited under the scheme for 3 or more consecutive years should be classified as a ‘low risk’ breeder and be given a three year licence period.


  1. What if my current breeding licence is not due to expire until after October 1st 2018 (i.e. the commencement date of the new regulations)?

The regulations state that any unexpired licence granted in accordance with the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 shall continue in force for the remainder of its term.


  1. Will I need a breeding licence to sell my puppies?

If you meet the licensing criteria i.e. you breed three or more litters per year and/or are breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling (see question 2) then you will need a breeding licence. An advertisement for the sale of a dog must include your licence number, the issuing local authority, a recognisable photograph of the dog being advertised, and the age of the dog being advertised. Puppies must not be sold until they are a minimum of eight weeks old. A different type of licence is required for those who are selling puppies they have not bred themselves.


  1. Do I need a licence number to advertise my puppies and do I need to provide a photo?

The requirements to include your licence number, the issuing local authority, a recognisable photograph of the dog being advertised, and the age of the dog being advertised only apply to licenced breeders. There is no requirement to include any of this information if you do not require a licence.


  1. I breed from home and I am concerned that my house and garden might not suit the licensing criteria, what do I do?

The new licensing conditions have been drafted to differentiate between those breeding within their home and those who have purpose built breeding facilities. Defra recognise that a Kennel Club Assured breeder will be achieving standards that are higher than those required by the new law and so if you are a member of the scheme or breed to those standards you will already be satisfying the new legal requirements


  1. Is the Kennel Club going to still register my puppies after three litters?

When registering a litter with the Kennel Club a breeder has to declare that they accept the Kennel Club Rules and Regulations, which already includes reference to the breeding licence and so this will simply continue. The breeder is also asked to declare they have checked and understood the legislation required by law, emphasis being on the breeder to check and ensure they are compliant


  1. I breed over three litters but I don’t sell any of the puppies, will I require a licence?

If you don’t sell any of the puppies, then you will not require a licence.


  1. I have heard that I will now require my home to be changed into a commercial property and that I will be required to have planning permission from my local council if I am to get a licence?

We have been informed that licensing and planning are totally separate regulations and one does not require or alter the other and a licence should be issued regardless. Please be advised to contact your local planning office for further information on whether you may or may not need planning permission.


  1. I am an Assured Breeder. When will I be required to show my licence?

As an Assured Breeder who is breeding three or more litters and selling at least one dog within a 12 month period, you will be required to provide a copy of your licence at the point of your Assessment Visit. If a licence is not available at the time of your visit, your report will be graded accordingly and the licence can then be provided via email as part of the Improvements process.

Any further questions please contact Defra www.gov.uk/guidance/contact-defra or contact your local authority.



Related Topics

Dog Breeding New Regulations dog breeding regulations
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