Dog breeding licences

Do you need a licence to breed dogs, how do I know who is licensed to breed, how to apply and renew a licence,  who regulates dog breeding and what happens if you don't apply.

Who needs a licence to breed dogs?

Yes, you will require a licence

You will require a licence if you meet any of the criteria below to breed dogs under the Animal Welfare Regulations 2018 if you are:

  • breeding more than two litters of puppies in any 12 month period (unless you can show that none of the puppies has been sold); or
  • you advertise a business of breeding dogs and sell puppies, irrespective of the number bred each year. 

Circumstances where dog breeding doesn’t require a licence

If you breed less than three litters a year, AND you sell the puppies without making any profit a dog breeding licence is not required. 

Keeping records

We recommend that anyone breeding dogs without a licence keeps thorough records and accounts in order to show that no profit is being made through the dog breeding activity. The requirement to make no profit is what exempts a person from requiring a licence.

If you are unsure whether you fit into these categories please contact us by email and we will be able to advise you:

Email: licensing@eastriding.gov.uk

How do I know who is licensed to breed dogs?

If a breeder is licensed, some basic things you should see are:

  • a clean, warm and comfortable environment for the puppies
  • the puppies can only be sold from the licensed premises and no other property or place
  • healthy, bright and confident puppies (you can see this by how they all clamber for attention and cuddles)
  • the puppies with their mother. If the puppies are over 5 weeks of age, the mother may have had enough of the puppies and may not necessarily be in with them, but she should be available for you to meet and should look visibly healthy and well
  • the animal activity licence issued by the council should be on display
  • the licence number should clearly be displayed on any advertising (including the internet) of dog breeding or puppies for sale
  • the breeder should be happy to discuss the breeding procedures and practices and provide guidance and information about how the puppy has been prepared to go to its new home – a documented and comprehensive puppy habituation and socialisation process is one of the licensing requirements
  • ongoing support – a licensed breeder will always be keen to stay in touch and support you and your puppy while you are all adjusting to each other and he/she settles into the new home.

The breeder must provide a comprehensive puppy pack of care information to a new owner on the day a puppy is collected covering the following areas:

  1. Feeding
  2. Exercise – including limitations before reaching maturity
  3. House-training
  4. Socialisation
  5. Housing
  6. Handling
  7. Health requirements, including vaccinations.

If you have any concerns please see the section below entitled 'Who regulates dog breeding and what to do if you have concerns?'

What is Lucy's Law and what do I need to know when buying a puppy?

On the 6 April 2020 the Government has introduced landmark new legislation to tackle the low-welfare, high volume supply of puppies and kittens, by banning their commercial third-party sale in England. 

 ‘Lucy’s Law’ means that anyone wanting to get a new puppy or kitten in England must now buy direct from a breeder, or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead. Licensed dog breeders are required to show puppies interacting with their mothers in their place of birth. If a business sells puppies or kittens without a licence, they could receive an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months. 

The law is named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy farm where she was subjected to terrible conditions. Puppy farms are located across the UK with most depending on third-party sellers or 'dealers' to distribute often sick, traumatised, unsocialised puppies which have been taken away from their mother at just a few weeks old. 

This often involves long-distance transportation, with the puppy or kitten suffering life-threatening medical, surgical, or behavioural problems which are passed on to unsuspecting new owners. Lucy’s Law effectively removes the third-party dealer chain, resulting in all dog and cat breeders becoming accountable for the first time.

Before visiting you should do the following:

  • Research. Have a look at the seller’s profile and search their name online. If they are advertising many litters from different breeds, then this is a red flag.
  • Check contact details. Copy and paste the phone number into a search engine. If the number is being used on lots of different adverts, sites and dates then this is likely a deceitful seller.
  • Check the animal’s age. Puppies and kittens should never be sold under 8 weeks old – do not buy from anyone advertising a puppy or kitten younger than 8 weeks.
  • Check the animal’s health records. Make sure the seller shares all records of vaccinations, flea and worm treatment and microchipping with you before sale. 

When visiting:

  • Make sure mum is present. If mum is not available to meet, it’s unlikely the puppy or kitten was bred there. Beware of the seller making excuses as to why mum is not there e.g. she's at the vet's, asleep, or out for a walk.
  • Check there isn’t a ‘fake’ mum. Most fake mums don’t interact with the puppies as they fear the real mum returning.
  • Watch out for puppies or kittens labelled as ‘rescue’ but with much higher than expected price tags.
  • If you feel rushed or pressurised into parting with cash, this is a red flag.
  • Health problems observed at purchase are not normal and don’t be convinced otherwise.
  • Beware of offers to meet somewhere convenient e.g. car park or motorway services, or ‘shop front’ premises, common with rented properties just to make sales, and ‘sales rooms’ kept separate from nearby or on-site puppy farm. 

To report any concerns or possible unlicensed breeders, please e-mail us: 

Email: licensing@eastriding.gov.uk

For more information please visit: 

GOV.UK - Get your pet safely campaign (external website)

What do you need to know before you apply for a dog breeding licence? 

By carrying out some basic checks, before applying for a dog breeding licence, you can increase the chances of your application being successful. The main checks we recommend are outlined below:

Mandatory licence conditions

They must be complied with at all times and the Licensing Inspector will need to see compliance at the time of the inspection so you should satisfy yourself that you are able to comply with the legal requirements, before making your application. A licence can only be granted where all the conditions are met and, where necessary, evidenced. 

Dog breeding mandatory licence conditions and guidance (pdf 648kb)

Planning permission

We recommend you contact the Planning Department to check whether your premises require any additional planning permission for a change of use or in respect of operating as a licensed breeding establishment. 

The email to contact the Planning Officers is:

Email: planning@eastriding.gov.uk

Pre-application advice service

If you are new to the whole or an area of animal activities licensing and require advice and guidance on applying for dog breeding licence, we offer a pre-application advice service. The fee for this service is £65 plus VAT. 
Please note: We cannot offer pre-application advice to any person who is subject to compliance/intervention or enforcement action by the Licensing Team. 
If you would like to book a pre- application advice meeting please email: licensing@eastriding.gov.uk.  

  • understanding the legal process
  • discussing and explaining the conditions and how they must be met
  • creating a plan of the premises and all the areas the dogs have access to 
  • developing and producing policies/protocols
  • making your application, or any other relevant requirement relating to your application.

How do I apply for a dog breeding licence?

All licences to breed dogs are issued in line with The Animal Welfare (licensing of activities involving animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities involving animals) Regulations 2018 (pdf 5mb)

Guidance notes for Breeding of dogs (pdf 648kb)

Before making an application you should ensure you have read 'What do I need to know before I apply for a licence to breed dogs?'

How does being a Kennel Club Assured Breeder affect my application?

The Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) as operating to the higher animal welfare standards.

Therefore, if you have held Kennel Club Assured Breeder status for at least three years you will automatically be considered low risk and, even if you have not previously held a licence with the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, your compliance history through the Assured Breeder Scheme will allow you to achieve low-risk rating.

The star rating issued will be dependent upon compliance with the animal welfare standards met. 


Animal Activities licence fee April 2020 (pdf 56kb)

Veterinary fees will also be due, which will be separately charged, as every application must be inspected by a vet. 

Please be aware that the cost of the veterinary inspection fee cannot be predetermined by the council and varies depending upon the number of dogs, type of premises, and the time taken for travel, inspection and report production.

Processing your application

If you wish to apply for a dog breeding licence you will need to complete and submit the online application form below, 

Please note: the online form will ask for payment at the end, failure to make the payment online will mean the licensing team will not receive your application for a dog breeder's licence. 

Apply online for a dog breeder's licence

Alternatively, you can complete the hard copy form below, which can then submitted via email to:

Email: licensing@eastriding.gov.uk

Application for the breeding or sale of dogs (word 191kb)

Your application form must be accompanied by all supporting documents listed in the application form declaration, any application received without supporting documents will not be accepted. 

Once your application is valid and complete you will be contacted by a licensing officer who will agree a mutually convenient appointment time/date for a full inspection to take place. On the successful completion of the inspection, receipt of the Vet’s Inspection report and payment of the inspection fee your application will be considered and determined.

Who inspects and what does the inspection involve?

The inspection must be made by a Licensing Inspector appointed from the Licensing Team and an independent Vet appointed by the council.

Jointly, the Licensing Inspector and vet inspect the following:

  1. The dogs
  2. The premises
  3. All material structures used for breeding (e.g. kennels, paddocks, whelping boxes, food storage areas/facilities, first aid kits, isolation, etc
  4. Documents, including all written policies and procedures required by the mandatory conditions.

Inspection fee

Following the inspection, the applicant will receive an invoice directly from the veterinary practice for the cost of the inspection. On payment of the invoice (by the applicant), the veterinary inspection report will be released to the council and, if the inspection report authorises the grant of the licence, the licence application will be determined.

If the licensing officer or vet is not satisfied that you meet the required standard they will tell you why and give you the opportunity to make improvements. 


A tacit consent does not apply to this application, meaning your application will not be automatically granted after a specified period of time. Each application must be assessed on its own merits as every premises requires inspecting to ensure the standards required are fully met and all applicants assessed for their ‘suitability’ to hold a licence.

How do I renew my dog breeding licence?

To renew an existing dog breeding licence you must:

  1. complete and submit a renewal application form below:
    Please note: the form will require an online payment at the end, if you fail to make the payment online, the form will not be received by the licensing team.
    Apply to renew a dog breeders licence
  2. successfully pass an inspection by a Licensing Officer. 

Please note: the renewal of an existing licence does not require an inspection by a vet.

How can I change/replace my dog breeding licence?

Minor changes

Minor changes can be made by a written request informing us of the requested change and the payment of an administration fee. For minor changes an inspection is not required.

Minor changes would include a change of name (e.g. in the case of marriage/deed poll etc.), the addition of a named licence-holder, the addition or removal of a dog on the breed schedule, where the total numbers are reduced or do not change. 

Please note: a veterinary inspection of a dog being added to the licence may be required, which, if necessary, would incur a cost required to be met by the applicant.

Major changes

Major changes require an application to vary the licence, the payment of a full variation fee and an inspection by a Licensing Officer would be required.

Major changes would include any structural change to the areas of licensed premises to which the dogs have access; a move of the breeding operation to an entirely new address; or an increase in the number of animals licensed. Where numbers are significantly increasing a further vet inspection may be required but in this regard each application will be considered on its own merits.

Please email licensing@eastriding.gov.uk for further information.

I’ve lost my licence. How can I get a replacement?

A replacement licence must be requested in writing by email to the Licensing Team at the address below and incurs a fee:

Email: licensing@eastriding.gov.uk

There are two categories of change that can be made to a licence:

  • Minor – changes that do not affect the animals or the licensed breeding operation or
  • Major – changes that substantially affect the licensed operation or the animal(s). 

Who regulates dog breeding and what to do if you have any concerns?

East Riding of Yorkshire Council is responsible for the licensing and compliance of dog breeders and for conducting investigations and taking enforcement action where compliance cannot be achieved.

If a breeder is licensed, their details will be on the council’s public register, their licence should also be on display in a prominent position at the premises and they must include their licence number in a clear and prominent position on any adverts for their breeding business or their puppies.

If you have concerns regarding breeding taking place at a licensed premises or breeding taking place without the necessary authorisation/licence you can report your concerns by email to the licensing team at licensing@eastriding.gov.uk or you can contact us by post at the following address: 

Licensing Team
County Hall
Cross Street
HU17 9BA.

Please take the time to provide as much information as you can to help us to conduct a full investigation.

What do the star ratings really mean?

Under The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 the local authority now issues a STAR rating to each premises based on a number of factors.

The star rating scheme is set by central government and applies nationally, this works a little different to other start rating schemes because it does not work on a sliding scale.

1 Star: These premises are existing businesses that are failing to meet the minimum standards.

2 Star: These premises do meet all of the mandatory minimum standards, however they are deemed to be higher risk.

A premises could be deemed at high risk because they are a new operator that has been opened or been taken over in the past 12 months or because of non-compliance such as substantiated complaints within the last 3 years.

3 Star: These premises meet all of the mandatory standards set out in the new regulations and are providing a high level of animal welfare to the animals on the premises. These premises have been inspected to check that they meet satisfactory standards in areas of accommodation and enrichment.

4 Star: These premises meet all of the mandatory standards and a set of higher standards that are specific to the activity they are licensed for. However, they are deemed to be at higher risk. A premises could be deemed at high risk because they are a new operator that has been opened or taken over in the past 12 months or because of non-compliance such as substantiated complaints within the last 3 years.

5 Star: These premises meet all of the mandatory standards and a set of higher standards that are specific to the activity they are licensed for which are attached.

The higher standards are optional. In some cases existing businesses are unable to meet the higher standards because their business and buildings were already established, in other cases the operator opts to not undertake the higher standards for other reasons such as they do not wish to provide additional services it requires.

Dog Breeding Higher Standards - To obtain a 4 or 5 Star rating, all the below criteria must be met:

  • Staffing levels will be 1 full-time equivalent attendant per 10 adult dogs kept.
  • All individual dogs must be inspected at least once at an appropriate interval during the out of hours period (e.g. 1800-0800).
  • Dogs must be provided with a design and layout that provides them with choice beyond minimum enrichment requirements. This can be achieved by, for example, inclusion of raised platforms or more than one room.
  • Dogs must be fed twice a day with a feeding plan for each dog balancing feeding with food enrichment such as use of scatter feeders. Inspector must see the enrichment tools and plan for each dog.
  •  A minimum of a week's supply of the puppies’ current diet must be included when they go to their new home.
  • There must a clear plan setting out two walks per dog each working day for a minimum of 20 minutes each or two sessions of access to a secure open area. There must be an alternative form of enrichment planned for dogs which cannot be exercised for veterinary reasons
  • The breeder will ensure all breeding stock or puppies are recorded in the UK with a registration organisation compliant with BSI 9001 which must make available records of parent or lineage including coefficient of inbreeding and record of health screening test results.
  • All bitches must be at least 18 months old before they are used for mating.
  •  A bitch must not be mated if she is 8 years of age or older.
  • A bitch must not give birth to more than four litters of puppies in total.
  • A bitch must not be bred from if they have had one cesarean.
  • Licence-holders must test all breeding stock for hereditary disease using the accepted and scientifically validated health screening schemes relevant to their breed or type, and must carefully evaluate any test results as well as follow any breeding advice issued under each scheme, prior to breeding. No mating must take place if the test results indicate that it would be inadvisable in the sense that it is likely to produce health or welfare problems in the offspring and/or it is inadvisable in the context of a relevant breeding strategy.
  • Surgery to correct exaggerated conformation must be reported to the appropriate organisation.
  • The puppy must be checked by a veterinarian before sale with proof of such held and available to the puppy buyer.
  • A puppy contract must be used, which must include undertakings and warranties around health, vaccinations and socialisation carried out by the seller prior to sale, and also make clear the responsibilities of the buyer relative to the dog. This must then give both parties confidence that a transaction has taken place in good faith. 

5 of the 9 below criteria must also be met:

  • Where there is staff employed at least one must have an OFQUAL regulated Level 3 qualification in a relevant subject and must be present during the working day.
  • A suitably qualified behaviour expert must be appointed in relation to the licensable activity and active engagement recorded.
  • Ventilation must be a managed, fixed or portable, air system to ensure appropriate temperatures are maintained in all weathers. This can be an air conditioning unit or use of removable fans.
  •  A noise management plan must be in place e.g. physical barriers, sound-absorbing materials, positive reinforcement training to keep barking down, kennel design to prevent noise generation with a demonstration of effectiveness.
  • The breeder must give all details of the sire to the buyer including date of birth, microchip number, registration body if applicable and details of any inherited diseases to which the father’s breed is prone and any screening tests or surgery to amend confirmation the father received.
  • The breeder must give all details of the bitch to the buyer including date of birth, microchip number, registration body if applicable and details of any inherited diseases to which the bitch’s breed is prone and any screening tests or surgery to amend conformation that the bitch received.
  • The licence holder must ensure that the microchipping database is amended with the puppy buyer’s details.
  • No bitch will be intentionally mated when the Coefficient of Inbreeding of the puppies would exceed the breed average or 12.5% if no breed average exists as measured from a minimum five generation pedigree.
  • A competent person must be on-site at all times. 

For more information please find the relevant guidance document attached above. If you have any queries regarding any information held in this register please contact the licensing team at:

Email: licensing@eastriding.gov.uk

What happens if I do not apply for a dog breeding licence?

On receipt of a complaint or allegation the Council will conduct a full investigation and, in the first instance, will require an operator to fully comply with the relevant legislation and obtain the required licence(s).  

All founded cases will be investigated on an individual basis, however, any person breeding dogs without a licence, in contravention of the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals)(England) Regulations 2018, may be prosecuted.

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