What is the star rating?
Successfully licensed breeders will be awarded a star rating from one to five stars.
Breeders with a five-star rating will receive a three-year licence, pay a lower fee, and will be inspected less frequently.
Breeders with lower star ratings will receive either a one-year or two-year licence, will pay higher licensing fees, and will be inspected with greater frequency.
The star rating is based on:
- The welfare standards against which you are operating
- Risk rating, which is based on whether you have a history of meeting these standards.
Breeders operating to higher welfare standards, and who have a history of maintaining these standards, will receive a higher star rating.
Breeders who operate to the minimum standards and have no compliance history will be awarded a two-star rating.
A one-star rating will be awarded to those breeders who need to make changes to meet the required standards.
Proving you are licensed.
It’s highly likely that a potential puppy owner will want to check a dog breeder’s licence in the UK and to do that they need your licence number. This is to aid potential puppy owners in completing their due diligence when they’re looking for a licensed breeder. It provides them with a feeling of security as more and more horror stories fill our headlines due to the cruelty that can be involved in breeding puppies. Potential puppy owners are becoming very wary about who they buy from and buying from a licensed breeder often gives them peace of mind.
The licence itself will need to be displayed on your premises and the licence number should be used in sales adverts. It should also be published on any websites and advertising pages that you use.
When a potential puppy owner wants to check your dog breeding licence they simply contact the issuing authority who will confirm your details and rating. At the same time, if the breeder is not licensed, they can be reported for trading illegally.
Potential puppy owners should always be advised to undertake thorough checks prior to purchasing a puppy and more and more owners want to buy from council licensed breeders. This shows a trend in well considered and well researched puppy purchases and, as breeders, we should welcome this. It shows that an owner is dedicated to finding a healthy, ethically and legally bred puppy for their family to enjoy. It’s also one of the most effective ways we can stamp out puppy dealers.
Another area for consideration around the sale of puppies is Puppy Sales Contracts. These offer protection for the breeder, the new owner, and most importantly the puppy.
Your licensing inspector will want to see a copy of the puppy contract you offer to buyers. It’s a crucial part of the sales process and should be considered a tool to encourage the responsible breeding and buying of puppies.
Your contract should ensure that your buyers have all the information they need to make an informed decision when buying a puppy and should include as a minimum:
- Puppy details including microchipping details
- Parent details
- Pedigree history
- Health testing history of parents
- Breeder details
- Owner details
- Details of health checks and treatments
- Details of the financial transaction and obligations
There are number of free downloadable contracts available on the internet, spend some time looking at what is available and make sure to use a contract that works for your puppy, the puppy buyer, and you.
Other legal requirements
There are other legal requirements dog breeders need to comply with, the most famous being Lucy’s Law.
Lucy’s Law was passed after the plight of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Lucy was uncovered when she was rescued from a Welsh puppy farm in 2013. She had spent 5 years in a cage in which she could barely stand up, and was forced to continuously breed litters of puppies. The conditions in which she had been kept were simply awful, and it sparked a move that would trigger the new law that bears her name.
After Lucy was rescued, campaigners started highlighting these horrific practises, bringing into the public eye the shameful and deeply saddening conditions that many breeding dogs were being kept in. Their puppies were taken from them too early and were treated like nothing more than commodities sold for profit.
The aim of the campaign was to focus on the welfare of puppies when sold by third parties, or “puppy dealers”. This was to put a stop to dogs being forced to breed multiple times a year, with puppies being taken from their mothers at just a few weeks old and sold on to pet dealers and pet shops.
Lucy's Law states;
- that puppies must be viewed with their mother
- a puppy under six months of age cannot be sold unless the seller has bred the puppy themselves (or if they are not a business, i.e. they are a rescue/rehoming centre).
- the sale of the puppy/puppies must take place where the dogs themselves live.
The intention of this law is to put in place preventative measures stopping animals from being separated from their mothers prematurely and preventing puppy dealers from operating illegal puppy trafficking businesses.
Dangerous Dogs Act
Although unlikely, you will need to ensure that you are not breeding an illegal breed.
In the UK there are specific breeds that are listed as dangerous and are therefore banned breeds. They are;
- The Pit Bull Terrier
- The Japanese Tosa
- The Dogo Argentino
- The Fila Brasileiro
Needless to say, you would not be successful in a license application if you were intend to breed these breeds!
Age of the Puppies
One thing all breeders need to be clear on is that the sale of puppies prior to 8 weeks of age is a NO GO ZONE!
Puppies need to be with their litter mates until at least 8 weeks of age. During this time they learn the crucial social and developmental skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Removing a puppy from its mother and litter mates prematurely can have long lasting effects. Dogs that have been homed too early often suffer with behavioural problems that owners cannot resolve. These can include;
- Separation anxiety
- Lack of bite inhibition
- Lack of impulse control
- Poor social skills
Long lasting behavioural issues are the most common reason for puppies and young dogs being rehomed. Owners find the effects of these types of behavioural issues extremely challenging to manage and live with. Sadly many dogs find themselves being handed over to rescue centres as a result. This is the reason that it is illegal to sell puppies before they are 8 weeks of age.
Since 6th April 2016, it has been a legal requirement to have all dogs microchipped by the age of 8 weeks. In light of the fact that a puppy cannot legally be sold until it is at least 8 weeks of age, the responsibility to microchip, in the main, falls to the breeder. To be fully compliant, the microchip also needs to be registered on a government approved database, so when a puppy is sold, the registered 'keeper' will be the breeder. The new owner then becomes responsible for ensuring that the puppy is transferred into their keepership and the registered details are kept up to date.
If a dog is found by police or local authorities not to have a microchip, or if the chip details are out of date, the owner is given 21 days to comply. If they fail to do so, they can be fined up to £500. The only exemption from the requirement is where a vet has certified in writing that a dog is unfit to be microchipped.
Microchips must be implanted by a trained and competent professional, be that a vet or someone who has successfully completed an approved microchipping course. Most vets and local authorities will charge a fee for microchipping, but it is a small price to pay to ensure you can be reunited with your dog should it go missing.
Please note that your dog must still wear a collar and tag with your name and address when in public.
So, will these laws and regulations change? It’s your responsibility as a licensed dog breeder to keep up to date and abreast of the laws and regulations around dog breeding in the UK.
There are guidance changes due in 2023. These changes could mean differences in the requirements for dog breeders and the procedures that breeders are expected to adhere to.
Between now and 2023 Defra are in talks with several steering groups. They are gathering information and data based on the guidance and how it’s been applied so far. This information is coming from licensing authorities, breeders and relevant organisations. It will be processed with a view to adapting the guidance in relevant areas if it is deemed to require adaptation.
Understanding licensing and the legal requirements around dog breeding in the UK is crucial for anyone already breeding, or contemplating breeding. If you ever have concerns or questions about licensing, contact your local authority and ask the licensing department for their advice and help.