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The Kennel Club’s Code Of Ethics For Dog Breeders

If you are a pedigree dog breeder or are considering breeding a litter of puppies from your own pedigree dog as a one-off, there are a lot of considerations to bear in mind before you even get as far as mating the dogs, and a whole range of different things you need to think about and factor in.

If you intend to register your litter with the Kennel Club to give them the pedigree paperwork that indicates their registered status, you need to abide by the Kennel Club’s Code of Ethics for dog breeders and dog owners, otherwise you might not be permitted to register the litter and may also be subject to expulsion from Kennel Club membership too.

The Code of Ethics isn’t restrictive or hard to follow for responsible dog owners and breeders, and complying with it is important – not just to ensure that you don’t fall foul of the Kennel Club’s rules, but because these rules are in place to protect the welfare of the dogs themselves.

In this article we will provide an introductory outline of the Kennel Club’s Code of Ethics for dog breeders and owners, and how it applies in practice. Read on to learn more.

Who does the Kennel Club’s Code of Ethics apply to?

The Code of Ethics applies to all breeders who register pedigree litters with the Kennel Club, and also to new dog or puppy buyers who register their pedigree pup themselves, or who register themselves as the new owner of a previously registered puppy.

By registering a litter or transferring the ownership details of a dog or puppy into your own name, you agree to abide by the Kennel Club’s Code of Ethics.

What is the Kennel Club’s Code of Ethics?

The Kennel Club’s Code of Ethics is designed to ensure that dogs and puppies are properly cared for, treated appropriately, and not bred or managed in such a way that might harm any of the dogs involved, or the breed as a whole.

Here are your obligations under the Kennel Club’s Code of Ethics:

  • You will provide the appropriate accommodation, food, water and exercise for any dog you are responsible for looking after (whether this is breeding stock or not) and will ensure that they see the vet as appropriate if this is necessary.
  • You agree that if your vet should need to carry out an operation on your dog that alters their natural conformation (such as for instance, for brachycephalic dogs that require corrective surgery for BOAS), they may report this fact to the Kennel Club. This is a common procedure within certain high-profile dog breeds, to assist the Kennel Club with breed health monitoring and so that they can keep a record of the health of individual dogs and breed lines.
  • You also agree that your vet may report any caesarean deliveries to the Kennel Club too, as there is a limit on how many litters a bitch may have by caesarean section before any further litters are ineligible for registration.
  • You agree that no pup that is healthy will be culled – this is not a common practice today but in the past, some breeders would have pups put to sleep if they did not feel that they achieved the type of quality or traits desired.
  • Any puppies that are healthy but that do not conform to the breed standard or otherwise are not considered by the breeder to be of good quality should be provided with appropriate homes.
  • Additionally, breeders agree not to supply puppies that have been illegally docked (tails can only be legally docked in a very limited range of circumstances). Breeders may not also create demand for illegally docked puppies, such as by advertising them in such a way as to make them appear advantageous or superior.
  • The Code of Ethics also mandates that breeders must abide by the full remit of the Animal Welfare Act of 2006.
  • Another aspect of the Code of Ethics and one that can be very open to interpretation states that breeders agree not to breed from a dog or bitch in any way that could be harmful to the dogs involved, or the breed as a whole. This is considered to be something of a grey area, as breeding dogs with certain types of conformation defects like a very brachycephalic face can in some cases have acute health implications for the pups, and yet such puppies are still commonly Kennel Club registered.
  • Breeders and dog owners may not allow their dogs to roam or stray, or otherwise make a nuisance of themselves to other people – including people carrying out official duties (such as Kennel Club or local council officers who might inspect a breeder’s premises).
  • The dogs belonging to owners and breeders must wear collars with appropriate identification on them and be kept under control (and on a lead as appropriate) when away from their home.
  • Owners and breeders are also obliged to clean up after their dogs when out in public, or when exhibiting their dogs at shows and events.
  • When it comes to selling dogs and puppies, a sale should only be made if the breeder reasonably expects that the pup in question will lead a healthy and happy life in their new home, and breeders are also expected to assist with later rehoming if the buyer’s circumstances change.
  • Breeders are also obliged to provide written information on the diet of any puppy or dog they sell, and to provide guidance on other aspects of care and responsible dog ownership to buyers too.
  • When a dog or puppy is sold or otherwise formally passed into the ownership of another person, breeders and sellers are obliged to provide all of the appropriate Kennel Club paperwork to the new owner, or if this is not available at the time, will agree in writing to send the appropriate paperwork on as soon as possible.
  • Breeders are also expected to be truthful when advertising and selling their pups, and not to knowingly misrepresent the dog or breed, nor mislead buyers on a dog’s quality or health, nor falsely advertise any dog or puppy.
  • Finally, breeders and owners alike agree not to sell dogs to a commercial wholesaler, retail pet dealer (like a pet shop) or allow any dog to be given away as a prize or award in any competition or contest. 
  • Additionally, Kennel Club registration certificates for any given dog (which indicate a dog’s pedigree status, registration and identifying information) cannot be sold in and of themselves, as opposed to with the dog they refer to.

Most of the points listed within the Code of Ethics are simply sensible rules for responsible breeding and dog ownership, and should not be hard to comply with – but it is worth familiarising yourself with them anyway, just to ensure that you’re not inadvertently falling foul of the rules.


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