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.

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For more information on:

  • Are there any defences available?
  • What are the penalties where one of these offences is committed?
  • The Pet Animals Act 1951
  • The law relating to commercial and private sellers
  • The Animal Welfare Act 2006
  • Contractual considerations