Following substantial lobbying, The Kennel Club has today (16 February 2021) welcomed new Scottish dog breeding regulations and commended officials in Holyrood for breaking away from the unfair and complex English approach to licensing. The regulations, which are due to come into play from September, outline that breeders in Scotland will require a licence if they breed three or more litters a year – removing the initially proposed and controversial ‘business test’ and resulting in comparatively straightforward legislation which should more effectively crack-down on poor breeding practices.
Following the 2018 update to dog breeding regulations in England, which The Kennel Club believes unfairly and disproportionately targets responsible, low volume breeders, as well as being difficult to enforce and understand, the organisation has lobbied policymakers at every stage of the legislative process to ensure that any regulations introduced in Scotland are more effective, fair and straightforward than their English counterparts.
In England, the regulations introduced a licence requirement in 2018 for those breeding three or more litters of puppies in a 12-month period and for those breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs – otherwise referred to as the ‘business test’. Although the legislation was intended to target high volume breeders, 40 per cent of all licences issued following the introduction of the regulations were given to breeders of just one or two litters. This has resulted in local authorities not having enough resource to target higher volume commercial breeders, as well reducing domestic dog breeding output – providing opportunities for importers and puppy farmers to fill the gap and raising valid concerns regarding animal welfare and health. As such, and following evidence provided by The Kennel Club demonstrating the English system’s failures during consultation, officials have omitted the business test from the Scottish breeding regulations. The Kennel Club and the Scottish Kennel Club were the only organisations lobbying for this change and strongly voicing the concerns of the dog breeding community, ensuring Holyrood made this necessary U-turn in the final and approved regulations.
Dr Ed Hayes, Head of Public Affairs at The Kennel Club said: “We are incredibly pleased that the Scottish Government recognised and acted on our concerns about the business test, and commend them for heeding our warnings to not repeat the mistakes made in the parallel English regulations, which we know haven’t been effective in tackling bad breeding practices.
“Alongside our counterparts at the Scottish Kennel Club, we have worked tirelessly on behalf of breeders to remove the problematic areas of concern from the legislation. The business test was included in the first drafts of these regulations, but our behind-the-scenes efforts and close communication with the Scottish Government has paid off and we have successfully ensured that the approved regulations are fair and easy to interpret, meaning that those responsible, high welfare breeders in Scotland will not have the same problems as experienced in England.
“The simple licensing threshold is also much easier for enforcement bodies to interpret compared to the unnecessarily complex and unfair English laws. We hope this means they will be more effective in ensuring high volume breeders are not sacrificing welfare standards in search of profits, preventing any damaging and unintended consequences which could benefit puppy importers and puppy farmers, and enabling low volume breeders to continue to breed responsibly and meet market demand with happy and healthy puppies.
“With the ongoing unprecedented demand for puppies during the pandemic, we wholeheartedly welcome this positive step forward for dog welfare at such a crucial moment, and are delighted that our lobbying and engagement with Scottish officials, alongside the Scottish Kennel Club, has been successful.
“We look forward to further collaboration with the Scottish Government on the legislation outlined, and will continue engaging with them to follow its progress and understand how it will work in practice and be enforced.”
Parliamentary Liaison Officer for the Scottish Kennel Club, Richard Morrison, added: "After working hard alongside Scottish Government and The Kennel Club, we too welcome these new breeding regulations. We believe that the more simple approach to licensing will be better for dogs and puppies across the nation, encouraging high welfare, responsible and caring breeding, whilst being more effective in stamping out those who carelessly churn out puppies simply for profit."
More information about dog breeding regulations across the UK and The Kennel Club’s lobbying activity is available on the organisation’s website