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Dog breeding

There's a limit on the number of litters that dog breeders can have, unless a breeder can prove that they will not sell any of the puppies from these litters as puppies or adults.

Businesses should tell their relevant licensing local authority by email or phone when each litter of puppies is whelped.

To decide if an activity is a business and will need a licence, consider if the operator:

  • makes any sale or carries out the activity to make a profit
  • earns any commission or fee from the activity

You should also consider HMRC's nine badges of trade.

If someone has a trading income below the HMRC trading income allowance, they do not require a licence for their activities.

If someone has a trading income above the HMRC trading income allowance, they do not automatically qualify as a business.

They must have a licence, if they do either or both of the following:

  • breed three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period - unless they can prove that none of the puppies have been sold as puppies or adults.
  • breed dogs and advertise a business of selling dogs - as defined under the business test.

Businesses need a licence regardless of the number of litters produced. This is not restricted to registered businesses. Individuals can also be classed as a business depending on the extent of their activities.

Indicators of commercial activity

You should consider these factors when determining whether someone is 'advertising a business':

  • the number, frequency or volume of sales - systematic and repeated transactions using the same means of advertising are likely to indicate a commercial activity.
  • high volumes of animals sold or advertised for sale could indicate a business.
  • low volumes of animals sold or advertised could indicate a business where high sales prices or large profit margins are involved.
  • high range and variability in the breeds traded - a wide variety of breeds being advertised could indicate the commercial nature of the activity.
  • 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 through the internet - this could be high numbers of advertisements at any one time or over a short period of time.
  • advertising through a variety of sites, forums or media could indicate a commercial activity.
  • the sale of animals with non-UK documentation or microchip could indicate commercial activity.

Every business must keep an up-to-date list of all their premises where they carry out activities covered by the LAIA 2018 regulations.

When is a licence not required?

Activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria do not require a licence:

  • organisations can provide documented evidence (if requested) that none of the puppies were sold or that they kept all of the puppies themselves as puppies or adults - 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).
  • registered charities that re-home puppies that are born to rescue dogs, unless such registered charities are in practice running this element of their operations as a commercial activity.
  • anyone breeding only assistance dogs as defined in the Equality Act 2010 (for example, Guide Dogs for the Blind).
  • anyone keeping a dog under the Animal Health Act 1981.
  • organisations regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

These lists are not exhaustive and applications will be assessed on a case by case basis.

If you are breeding dogs and fit these criteria you require a licence to breed dogs. You can view the guidance and apply for a licence under the 'Downloads' section below.

How do I apply?

If you wish to apply for a dog breeding licence, you can download the application form below and either email it to environmantalhealth@sthelens.gov.uk or post it to St Helens Borough Council, Regulatory Services, PO Box 512, St Helens, WA10 6JX.

The fee for a dog breeding licence is £283 (+ vet fees where necessary).

Please find more information on the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website: dog breeding licensing: statutory guidance for local authorities.

For more information, please contact Environmental Health on 01744676789 or email Environmental Health.