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Defra Consultation On Tougher Licence Controls For The Breeders And Sellers Of Puppies

A consultation announced on the 20th December 2015 by DEFRA (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has hailed changes to the regulations surrounding the licencing of dog breeders, in order to protect the welfare of puppies bred within the UK.

The proposals seek to place tougher restrictions on those that breed puppies, whether they be large-scale operations, professional dog breeders or even small, private individuals who wish to breed a few litters from their own dogs.

The proposals at the moment are in the consultation stage, which means that DEFRA are seeking opinions and views from the dog-loving pubic on their plans, impacts and benefits, and anyone can share their opinions as part of the consultation itself.

In this article, we will look at the proposals and what they mean for dog breeders and buyers in more detail, and how you can have your say in the consultation.

What are the proposals?

The proposals that have just been announced by DEFRA would, if they are approved, strengthen the regulations relating to the breeding of dogs and the selling of puppies, regardless of the size of the operation.

The proposals are essentially designed to tighten up the regulations surrounding the licencing and permissions required to breed and sell puppies, and provide more uniformity and communication between different governing bodies and licencing organisations in order to generally improve animal welfare and close some of the existing loopholes.

If the proposed revisions to the existing regulations are approved, the following five key changes and amendments will occur:

  1. A single and universal “animal establishment licence” in line with our current knowledge on animal welfare will be brought in, in order to reflect the modern advent of the internet when it comes to buying and selling animals.
  2. The legal requirements for each activity that currently requires licencing will be upheld and clarified, covering elements such as the threshold for which licencing is required in terms of the number of dogs and litters one must own to need licencing.
  3. At any point within the licencing year, a fixed-term licence may be issued in order to make it easier for breeders and pet sellers to move premises or transfer the ownership of their animals.
  4. The maximum length of time for which a local council can issue a licence will be increased to three years, and local authorities will use risk-based assessments to determine the appropriate licence length in each individual case.
  5. Businesses affiliated with UKAS-accredited bodies will be permitted to exercise exemptions from licencing requirements, assuming that the relevant accreditations enforce the accepted minimum welfare standards.

What does all of this mean?

Essentially, whilst the above five elements of the proposals might sound like technicalities or rather abstract in terms of their relevance to the average dog lover, they are all intended to achieve one end goal: To protect the welfare of puppies and put an end to unregulated, unscrupulous backyard breeders who have previously fallen outside of the remit of dog breeder licencing regulations.

The regulations, if introduced, will make it easier for the authorities to identify irresponsible breeding, and breeding endeavours that take place with little or no regard paid to the welfare and wellness of the dogs and puppies involved.

Every year, thousands of puppies are produced in the UK by the so-called backstreet breeders who produce puppies on a small enough scale to avoid falling under the remit of the current regulations, but for whom the welfare and wellness of their puppies are not a major concern. The regulations would ultimately have a direct effect on any such establishment or individual who produces three or more litters per year, encompassing many small-scale breeders who would previously have flown under the radar.

The consultation will tighten up the existing grey areas on what sort of breeders require a licence, and allow breeders who are enrolled in schemes such as The Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme more leeway in terms of being policed by the scheme itself, rather than local authorities. This would free up resources on the part of local authorities to target other breeders who are of more concern.

It will also, vitally, establish the precedent that online sales by sellers via websites such as those owned by breeders and others operated by direct sellers will be treated in the same way as sales undertaken offline, by pet shops and other similar puppy selling venues.

Here at Pets4Homes, we are one of the six key online pet classifieds sites that work with the Pet Advisory Action Group and DEFRA to remove inappropriate adverts where there are potential animal welfare or licencing concerns, and work to advise potential puppy buyers of what to look for when making a responsible choice on where to buy from.

Getting involved in the consultation

DEFRA’s consultation is running until March 2016, and is intended to allow people who may be affected either positively or negatively by the proposed changes to have their say. You can read the full details of the consultation here, and find out how to have your say here.


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