What Breeders Need To Do To Be Licensed Under The Upcoming Changes To The Animal Welfare Act 2018

A range of wide-reaching changes to England's Animal Welfare Act will become law in October 2018, and these changes will potentially affect virtually anyone who breeds or sells puppies for profit.

Under the remit of the new law, if you are classed as being in the business of breeding and/or selling puppies or aim to make a profit from breeding or selling puppies, you will need to be licensed by the relevant local authority to do so. Whether you have been breeding for profit for years or are just considering breeding from your own pet dog, you need to get to know the law.

From 1st October 2018 onwards, anyone who breeds and sells three or more litters within any twelve-month period – and anyone who sells dogs for profit (potentially even just once) is classed as a business, and needs a license. Whether the licensing regulations will apply in practice to one-off breeders or people who breed one occasional litter only remains to be seen – but current information indicates that if you intend to sell pups for profit (whether or not you actually make a profit) you may need a license.

If you’ve worked out that you’re going to need a license to continue with your business or start selling pups, the next step is to determine what you need to do in order to ensure that your local authority issues you with the license, and that you will keep any license you are issued.

In this article, we will outline all of the core criteria that you will need to demonstrate before you can be considered for a license or keep your license if you are determined to need one.

Advertising dogs and puppies for sale

When advertising your puppies for sale, you can only do so for dogs that were bred by you as the license holder unless the pup was born and reared under you license.

Adverts for any dogs you sell must display your license number, the name of the local authority that licenses you, and a recognisable picture of the dog for sale. Ads must also show the age of the dog.

Selling dogs and puppies

  • You as the licence holder, or any staff that you employ must ensure that anything you sell with the dog – like food or accessories – are suitable for it.
  • Any buyer must be informed of the sex, age and veterinary history of their purchased dog.
  • Pups under eight weeks old may not be sold or separated from their dam, and puppies must be shown to potential buyers with the dam present – unless this is necessary due to health and welfare concerns for the dogs.

Providing a suitable environment for your dogs

License holders have to ensure that they provide suitable accommodation and living conditions for the dogs in their charge. The full details of this section of the regulations are as follows:

  • Each dog you keep must have access to a clean, warm, comfortable and draught-free sleeping area that they can access at all times, with their own bed for each adult dog.
  • There must be enough space for every dog to stand up on its back legs, stretch out fully when lying down, wag its tail, turn around and walk about without having to touch the walls of their sleeping area, or any other dog.
  • A separate exercise area that is not the sleeping area must also be provided.
  • Some or all of the exercise area must be out of doors.
  • A separate whelping area must be provided for every dam, which incorporates a suitable whelping bed. The temperature in the whelping area must be maintained at between 26-28 degrees centigrade, with freedom for the dam to move away from hotter areas.
  • Puppies below the age of eight weeks old must not be transported without their dam, other than in an emergency or if a vet agrees that health and welfare indicate that this is the right choice.
  • After a dam has conceived, she must not be transported later than 54 days into her pregnancy other than if needed to a vet.
  • Dams with litters should not be transported during the first 48 hours after whelping unless to a vet because the vet is unable to attend at the dam’s home.

Providing a suitable diet for your dogs

Every pup must be started on weaning as soon as they are able to eat on their own, and bitches must be fed appropriately to support themselves and their litters. Pups should be given the appropriate food for each developmental stage they pass through, and supervision should be in place to ensure that every pup gets enough food.

Behaviour and training monitoring

Any person who holds a dog breeder or seller license under the Animal Welfare Act must set up and be able to demonstrate that they provide the appropriate opportunities for pups to socialise and habituate.

  • All dogs must be provided with enrichment in the form of toys and/or food, unless this is advised against by a vet.
  • All adult dogs (dogs over six months of age) must be taken from their sleeping area and exercised at least twice a day. If a vet has advised against this for any given dog, they must be provided with alternative forms of engagement and stimulation instead.
  • All toys and equipment used for dogs or that dogs may come into contact with must be safe for them, correctly used, and not cause a risk of distress, suffering, pain or disease.

Socialising and providing alone time

  • All adult dogs must be given the chance to meet and socialise naturally with other dogs where this benefits the welfare of the dogs involved.
  • All adult dogs must also have suitable and appropriate opportunities to get used to contact with people.
  • You must have a procedure in place for handling and managing any dogs that show behavioural problems or abnormal behaviour.
  • Every dog’s sleeping area must have a section that the dog can use freely to avoid having to see other people and dogs as and when they wish to.

Health, protection, and prevention of suffering

One of the largest section of the Animal Welfare Act’s changes applies to how breeders and sellers of dogs for profit must ensure the health, welfare, safety and protection of their dogs. This expanded section forms an integral part of the Act’s 2018 update, and is very important for license holders and applicants for licenses.

Here’s what you need to know.

  • Any dogs you offer for sale must be in good health.
  • You may not offer for sale any dog that has a health condition that is likely to have a significant negative impact on its quality of life, nor may such a dog be moved or transferred other than to a vet or isolation facility to allow it to receive the appropriate care.

When it comes to breeding bitches, the following rules apply,

  • Bitches under twelve months of age must not be mated.
  • Bitches may have no more than one litter within any twelve-month period.
  • No bitch may be used to breed more than six litters in total in her lifetime.
  • A bitch that has already had to have two (or more) litters delivered by caesarean section must not be bred from again.

General mating and breeding regulations.

  • Every pup born must be microchipped with the license holder’s details before sale.
  • Any given dog must not be kept or used for breeding if it’s health, genotype or phenotype could be harmful to its own health or welfare, or that of any litter it produces or sires.
  • Any dogs kept should be checked every four hours during the daytime, and at the beginning and end of each day for health, safety and welfare.

Records keeping for breeding bitches.

Bitches must be supervised and monitored during whelping, and a record kept of all of the following:

  • Each pup’s date and time of birth.
  • The birthweight, sex and colour of each pup.
  • When the placenta is passed.
  • How many puppies were born.
  • Anything else notable or significant that happened during delivery.

Records for puppy sales.

When a puppy is sold, license holders are required to keep records of the following things:

  • Each pup’s microchip number.
  • The date the pup was sold, and the age of the puppy at the date of sale.

Records for breeding dogs.

Dogs that are kept as breeding stock or prospective breeding stock must have the following details recorded about them:

  • Their name, sex and date of birth.
  • Their microchip number and details.
  • The address that the dog normally lives at.
  • The dog’s breed or type, and a description of the dog.
  • Any dates on which the dog was mated, whether or not this resulted in conception (this applies to both male and female dogs).
  • Details of the dog’s dam and sire.
  • Records of any veterinary treatment the dog has had, and when appropriate, the dog’s date of death and cause of death.

There are also further records required for bitches used for breeding, which are as follows:

  • The number of times the bitch has been mated.
  • The bitch’s age each time they were mated.
  • The number of litters they have had.
  • The date(s) of delivery of each litter.
  • Whether the bitch has ever had to undergo a caesarean section, and if so, how many times.

Other considerations

As well as the specific points above, there are a few other general considerations and recording requirements that licensed breeders must fulfil. These are:

  • What arrangements are made for breeding bitches at the end of their breeding career if they are sold or rehomed rather than kept by the license holder.
  • A preventative healthcare plan for the dogs kept by the license holder must be drawn up and agreed with the vet that the license holder is registered with, and evidence that this plan has been implemented must be available.
  • Any preventative healthcare or treatments for injuries or diseases must be recorded for every dog.
  • If you use your licensed premises for any other animal-related activities – say, if you also keep a boarding kennels as well as breeding dogs – this area must be kept entirely separate from the area used as your licensed breeder premises.

Complying with the Animal Welfare Act for dog breeders – is it hard?

If you’re only just starting to look into what you as a breeder might need to do in order to comply with the Animal Welfare Act’s business breeder licensing criteria, you might already be feeling a little daunted about the scope of the Act and how much work you may potentially have to do to comply with it.

However, if you are already breeding and caring for your dogs responsibly, you’re likely to find that you are already doing everything or almost everything that you should be already – and that there may well be less work to do than you think.

For responsible, conscientious dog breeders, potentially the main areas you will need to look at changing to ensure your license compliance is how you keep records – things that you might remember, but that now need to be formally noted down.

Ensuring that your adverts fulfil the criteria for license holders is another facet of this, but ultimately, all of the above conditions are designed with the health and welfare of dogs in mind first and foremost – and so, should not be hard to achieve.


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