Plans to crack down on backstreet breeders have been described as a “step in the right direction” by the BVA president.

Tougher laws around selling pets and dog breeding will come into force in 2018.
Tougher laws around selling pets and dog breeding will come into force in 2018.

The plans to toughen up laws around selling pets and breeding dogs, announced on 2 February, will come into force in 2018. They will make it illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks and require anyone breeding and selling three or more litters a year to apply for a formal licence.

Irresponsible breeders who don’t stick to these rules face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in prison, says Defra.

Backstreet breeders

The new rules mean smaller establishments – sometimes known as “backstreet breeders” – as well as larger commercial breeders, must meet strict welfare criteria to get a licence.

Anyone trading commercially in pets online will also need to be properly licensed to help make reputable sellers easily accessible to prospective buyers, the department said.

The plans also cover how pet shops, boarding houses and riding stables are licensed, with the introduction of a single “animal activities licence” to improve the process and make enforcement easier.


BVA president Gudrun Ravetz said the legislation was a step in the right direction for animal welfare and addressed an issue members had been “extremely concerned about” in light of an increasing number of poorly bred puppies presenting in practice.

She said: “We particularly welcome the move to make the sale of a puppy under eight weeks illegal, the reduction in the number of litters bred requiring a formal breeder’s licence and the moves towards a single animal activities licence.

“In the future, we would also like to see anyone breeding from a dog should be required to register with their local authority.

“We hope the new legislation will encourage owners to stop and think about where they’re getting their puppies from to tackle irresponsible breeding both at home and abroad.”

Huge issue

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home chief executive Claire Horton said the charity knows “only too well” backstreet and commercial puppy breeding affects thousands of owners and pets annually.

She said: “Toughening the dog breeding licensing rules and making it illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks is a welcome first step and we now look forward to working with the Government to see these plans be put into practice and progress further.”

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