Puppy breeding laws

What is the law about puppy breeding and what does it mean for me?

In the United Kingdom you must apply for a license if you are breeding 3 or more litters in a year (or 5 if you are based in Scotland). Here are our handy guides to help explain what the laws are in each part of the United Kingdom:

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales you can find out how to get a licence on the Defra website. If you live in Northern Ireland find out more here

However, you don’t have to be a licensed breeder to use The Puppy Contract. It has been designed for anyone use to help demonstrate that you are a responsible breeder who has given your puppies the best start in life.


In October 2018 the government in England introduced a new law about certain activities involving animals which is called the The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. Breeding dogs is one of the activities covered by the Regulations, and they place a legal obligation on dog breeders to meet certain conditions in order to protect the welfare of puppies and their parents. 

The rules about dog breeding apply to anyone who is:

  • breeding three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period (unless they don’t sell any of the puppies) 
  • breeding dogs and advertising a business of selling dogs.

If you meet either of these criteria you must have a licence from your local authority and you must display your licence number in any adverts for puppies. 

Some of the conditions included in the new law are that:

  • Breeders can only sell puppies they have bred themselves, and only from the place the puppy was bred and reared.
  • Puppies must be 8 weeks before they can be sold or leave their mum.
  • Puppies must be seen with their biological mum.
  • Breeders must be able to show they have used a ‘socialisation and habituation’ plan.  
  • All dogs for sale must be in good health.
  • No dogs should be kept for breeding if their genetics, physical characteristics or state of health mean that breeding from them could have a detrimental impact on theirs or their offsprings’ health or welfare. 

Breeders will be given a star rating, depending on whether they meet the ‘minimum’ and ‘higher’ standards. By meeting more of the ‘higher standards’ you will be able to achieve a higher star rating. This helps puppy buyers know that you are doing more to make sure your puppies and their parents are happy and healthy. 

Using a puppy contract is required to meet the ‘higher standards’. You can easily achieve this by using The Puppy Contract for each puppy you sell, and giving a copy to the buyer.


Under The Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014 you will need a licence to breed dogs if you keep 3 or more breeding bitches on your premises and:

  1. breed on those premises 3 or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period; 
  2. advertise for sale from those premises a puppy or puppies born from 3 or more litters of puppies for sale in any 12 month period; 
  3. supply from those premises a puppy or puppies born from 3 or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period; or 
  4. advertise a business of breeding or selling puppies from those premises. 


In Scotland, anyone who breeds and sells more than five litters of puppies in any 12 month period must be licensed with their local authority under the following:

  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1972
  • The Breeding of Dogs Act 1991
  • Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999
  • The Licensing of Animal Dealers (Young Cats and Young Dogs) (Scotland) Regulation 2009
  • Microchipping of Dogs (Scotland) Regulations 2016

As a seller of puppies you will need a license if:

  • You are breeding and selling five or more litters in a year
  • Advertising a business breeding and selling dogs
  • Selling dogs commercially, such as in pet shops
  • Selling puppies under the age of 12 weeks, even if you are not the breeder.

Northern Ireland

As part of the Welfare of Animals (Dog breeding establishments and miscellaneous amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 anyone who owns three or more breeding bitches or intends to breed more than three litters of puppies a year for sale must apply for a dog breeding establishment licence. 

A breeding establishment is defined as one or more premises, within the same area, operated by the same person and from which that person keeps three or more breeding bitches, and 

  • breeds three or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period
  • advertises three or more litters of puppies for sale in any 12 month period
  • supplies three or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period, or
  • advertises a business of breeding or selling of puppies.

You need to apply to your local authority for your license. Anyone may ask to see your license or contact your local authority to see your license.

You will not be able to apply for a dog breeder license if you have been disqualified under any of the following legislations:

  • The Breeding of Dogs Act 1973
  • The Welfare of Animals Act 2011
  • The Dogs (NI) Order 1983, amended
  • Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963
  • The Protection of Animals Act 1954
  • The Pet Animals Act 1951

Before applying you should also check with your landlord or mortgage provider (if relevant) and check with Building Control and Planning Services within your local council to ensure you have all of the relevant approvals. It is your responsibility to ensure that all of these checks have been made.