Licences for dog breeders

Changes to the law - effective from 1 October 2018

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have released some guidance in relation to breeding dogs.  The guidance states which activities would come under the scope of the legislation and which activities would be exempt:

In scope criteria - activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria are subject to licensing:

  1. Anyone breeding three or more litters of puppies per year (unless they can show that none of the puppies have been sold).
  2. Anyone breeding puppies and advertising a business of selling them, as defined under the business test outlined above. This is irrespective of the number of litters produced per year. This is not restricted to registered businesses - individuals can also be classed as a business depending on the extent of their activities.
  3. Factors that should be considered when determining whether someone is "advertising a business" include:
  4. 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.
  5. High volumes of animals sold or advertised for sale could indicate a business.
  6. Low volumes of animals sold or advertised could indicate a business where high sales prices or large profit margins are involved.
  7. High range and variability in the breeds traded. A wide variety of breeds being advertised could indicate the commercial nature of the activity.
  8. High numbers of advertisements of puppies for sale, including on classified websites, could indicate commercial behaviour, even where there is no actual sale taking place via the internet. This could be high numbers of advertisements at any one time or over a short period of time, and/or regularly.
  9. Advertising through a variety of sites, forums or media could indicate a commercial activity.

Out of scope criteria - activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria are not subject to licensing:

  1. Breeders who can provide documented evidence, if requested, that none of the puppies were sold or that they kept all of the puppies themselves. Documented evidence will need to include records of the new owners of all of the puppies and provide details on why there was no transaction involved (including in kind).
  2. Registered charities that rehome puppies that are born to rescue dogs, unless such registered charities are in practice running this element of their operations as a commercial activity.
  3. Anyone breeding only assistance dogs as defined in the Equality Act 2010 (e.g. Guide Dogs for the Blind).
  4. Anyone keeping a dog under the Animal Health Act 1981.
  5. Organisations regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
  6. Breeders that breed a small number of puppies (i.e. less than 3 litters per year), and that sell them without making a profit.

Current process (due to change in October 2018)

You must have a licence if you breed and sell dogs.

This applies to anyone regularly selling dogs for profit and in all cases where more than five litters are sold in a 12 month period. The CIEH model conditions and guidance for dog breading establishments is a good reference for understanding the requirements.

There are currently no licensed dog breeders in Cheltenham borough.

Make an application

Information on how to apply for a licence, including fees and how we make a decision on whether to grant an application.

Buying a puppy

Please buy from either a licenced breeder or a small breeder who doesn't require a licence.

The following information will be helpful:

  • Guidance from the RSPCA including questions to ask
  • Advice from the Dogs Trust
  • The Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding gives advice on buying a puppy including what you need to consider before buying a puppy, and how to identify a breeder who takes a real interest in the health and welfare of their puppies
  • The RSPCA support the 'Puppy contract' - a record of good breeding and care which can help ensure a puppy has a happy and healthy life
  • The Kennel Club provides guidance and lists their breeders.  In addition to the general kennel club breeders they also have a UKAS accredited breeders under their 'Assured Breeders Scheme'
  • There are schemes in place for the screening of hereditary conditions. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) - in conjunction with the Kennel Club and the International Sheep Dog Society -  encourages responsible breeding through its canine health schemes

Do not buy a puppy if you are uncomfortable with the situation, even if you want to rescue it.  Buying a puppy from a bad breeder continues the poor behaviour. You cannot rescue all the puppies this breeder will produce, and if you buy the puppy you are providing the sellar with the money to continue.  Instead please report the situation to us.  

Complaints or information about a dog breeder

Signs of obvious neglect or cruelty should be reported directly to the RSPCA

For other complaints, please contact us providing details of the person and/or premises involved. Please clearly state your concerns and reasoning. All matters of concern will be investigated. We are interested in non-licenced commercial breeders and licenced breeders that are breaching our standard conditions.

For other animal welfare complaints please see who is responsible in animal welfare.

Relevant legislation

Cheltenham Borough Council provides the animal licensing service to you. We will use your personal information to provide this service to you and will need to share your information with relevant service areas within the council and partner organisations to enable us to do this. For further information about how the council uses information it holds about you please visit our privacy pages.