There are two Acts which relate to breeding dogs and selling them. The first is the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and the second is the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999.
In order to own a premises for the purpose of breeding dogs, the owner must hold a relevant licence and without one the owner can receive harsh penalties including imprisonment.
When an individual owns premises for the purpose of breeding dogs, they must obtain a licence from the local authority.
In legal terms a breeding establishment for dogs relates to any premises which involves the breeding of dogs for sale.
An individual is identified as conducting business for breeding dogs if they;
- Keep a bitch at any premises and the bitch gives birth to puppies at any time in 12 months
- At least four litters are born during a 12 month period to the bitches owned by the licence holder whether at the same or different premises.
Licences are not just granted to anyone. They cannot be issued to people who have been disqualified from keeping a breeding establishment for dogs or a pet shop.
If a licence has not been previously issued to the intended owner, they will attend the proposed premises to conduct an inspection accompanied by a vet. Reports are then prepared about the premises, the applicant and any other important issues.
When reaching a decision to grant a licence, local authorities will consider the suitability of accommodation along with other issues such as the supply of food, drink and bedding for the dogs.
They will also carry out checks to ensure that the animals receive adequate exercise, they are transported safely and comfortably and adequate safeguards are in place to protect against fire.
Checks will be carried out by the local authority so that they are satisfied the dogs will be properly cared for and exercised and all reasonable precautions will be implemented to avoid the spread of disease.
Granting A Dog Breeding Licence
Once a local authority has reached a decision to grant the property owner a licence, they will do so under certain conditions. If the individual would like to appeal against the conditions which have been specified in the licence then they can lodge an appeal through the Magistrates Court.
When an individual fails to comply with a condition of the licence, they can be issued with a fine or in the most serious cases sentenced to a term in prison. Licences can also be cancelled by the local authority at any time and the licence holder can be disqualified by the court from owning or managing a breeding establishment for a specified or infinite period of time.
Licences have to be renewed each year unless it is cancelled or revoked. If the licence holder passes away during this time, it will pass to their representative for a timescale of three months.
This can be extended for a further three months if they are in the process of going through probate and administering their estate.
Under the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, a number of criminal offences were outlined including;
- It is illegal for an individual to sell a dog at any location other than the licensed breeding premises, a licensed rearing establishment in Scotland or a licensed pet shop.
- Dogs cannot be sold to someone who the seller believes will sell the dog to another person
- A dog cannot be sold under the age of 8 weeks to someone who is not a licensed pet shop owner
- A criminal offence is committed if a dog is sold to the keeper of a licensed pet shop which was not born at a licensed breeding establishment or the dog was not wearing a collar or identification tag
Licence holders can build a defence for any of these offences if they can demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps and carried out the necessary due diligence to prevent the offence from being committed.
Any breach of the Act can result in a term in prison in addition to a fine. If the courts convict the offender they can revoke any licence and disqualify the individual from owning any establishment for the purpose of breeding dogs and/or owning any dog for a period of time which is defined by the court.
Courts are also able to order that the care of a dog being looked after by a third party is paid for by the offender until permanent arrangements can be made to either rehouse the dog or arrange for it to be put down if required. Failure to comply with this is also a criminal offence, again punishable by a fine and or custodial sentence.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006
In accordance with the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is a criminal offence to sell any animal to an individual the seller believes is under the age of 16. Selling will include the transfer or agreement to transfer ownership of the animal.
Although a dog is classed as an animal, the sale of a dog will be treated by the law in the same manner as a product or service. When a dog is sold, a contract is formed and the general consumer laws will apply as well as the Sale of Goods Act 1979.
Owners of a dog breeding establishment must keep clear and concise records to ensure that all regulations relating to breeding dogs are adhered to. Any puppies which are born at a licensed breeding establishment can only be sold at the premises or a licensed pet shop.
Local authorities have a duty of care to enforce this legislation and ensure that dogs are being kept in suitable accommodation. The legislation is very clear and any individual who wishes to own a breeding establishment for dogs must ensure that they fully comply with the regulations and ensure that the safety and welfare of the animals is of paramount importance.
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