What is the law relating to the sale of dogs?

Commercial dog sellers

The Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999

Commercial dog breeders must have a licence from their local authority, even if they are carrying on their breeding business from a private dwelling, under the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999. In addition, anyone who breeds more than five litters in a 12-month period must also have a licence.

The local authority has discretion whether to issue a licence, and will take into account factors including whether the dogs have suitable accommodation, food, water and bedding material; whether they are adequately exercised; and all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent and control the spread of diseases amongst dogs.

If a breeder does not have a licence when legally required, they can be issued with severe penalties, including potential imprisonment.

Offences by licensed breeders

There are a number of criminal offences relating to the sale of dogs by licensed breeders under the 1999 Act, including:

  • selling a dog at a place other than the licensed breeding establishment, a licensed pet shop (or a licensed Scottish rearing establishment);
  • selling a dog to someone the seller knows or believes intends to sell on the dog and the purchaser is not the keeper of a licensed pet shop;
  • selling a puppy less than 8 weeks old to someone who is not the keeper of a licensed pet shop;
  • selling to the keeper of a licensed pet shop a dog which was not born at the licensed breeding establishment or a dog which, when delivered, is not wearing a collar with an identifying tag or badge which clearly displays the licensed breeding establishment at which it was born.

Are there any defences available?

The licence holder will have a defence to any of these offences if they can show that they took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing the offence.

What are the penalties where one of these offences is committed?

The penalty for failing to comply with any of these offences is imprisonment of up to three months and/or a fine or up to £2,500.

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For more information on:

  • The Pet Animals Act 1951
  • The law relating to commercial and private sellers
  • The Animal Welfare Act 2006
  • Contractual considerations