How will the new Animal Welfare Regulations affect most dog breeders?

Dog breeding

New regulations announced in 2016 are coming into force this Monday, the 1st of October 2018. The catchy title for this new legislation is the ‘Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.’ This act repeals both the Breeding of Dogs Act 1991 and the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 and also revokes the Sale of Dogs (Identification Tag) Regulations 1999 and Breeding of Dogs (Licensing Records) Regulations 1999.

  • Lack of knowledge regarding this legislation is not a defense in the case of non-compliance – yet, with 4 days to go, information from most local authorities is sorely lacking.
  • You will not be able to legally advertise your puppies – even on the internet (and yes, even on Facebook) – without including your breeder license number and local authority under which it was issued.
  • If you don’t comply with this new legislation then you could face an unlimited fine or up to 6-months in prison.

This legislation covers a number of business ventures involving animals, but the parts which concern us are Schedule 3, with addresses selling animals as pets, and Schedule 6, regarding the breeding of animals. This legislation only applies to English local authorities, as currently, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will not be governed by this legislation.

 

Who does this new Act affect?

Schedule 3 is primarily focusing on pet shops while Schedule 6 includes private citizens and hobby breeders. It is Schedule 6 which will most affect breeders, and places a limit on the number of litters that can be produced annually, unless you can prove that none of these puppies were sold. We are told that each local authority inspector will have a certain degree of discretion when assessing each case, which is probably supposed to be reassuring, but simply adds a further element of ambiguity to an already clear-as-mud situation.

There are some activities that are exempt from this legislation:

  • Breeding assistance dogs only (Equality Act, 2010)
  • Breeding less than 3 litters per year
  • Not selling the puppies and having documentation to prove this

 

What are the costs to the average breeder?

Only a small number of local authorities have published their fees for licensing applications to date but, from these, you should expect to pay around £200 plus veterinary costs for a license application. Schedule 8 of the Animal Welfare Act lists all those people who are prohibited from applying for a license. Some local authorities might not refund application fees if you’re disqualified and apply anyway.

As well as the financial cost of obtaining a license for anybody wishing to produce more than two litters per year, there are many new time costs. Some of the changes breeders will find most irritating is having to physically record more information. Either written or computerised records must be kept, that are legible and available for inspection at any time by the local authority. These need to be kept for at least 3-years. Some of these are pretty basic; for each dog, you must keep a record of name, sex, date of birth, microchip number and breed history including matings, any caesarean sections required and records of all pups sold. Not a big deal. However, you will also have to draw up protocols for whelping, weaning, matings, behaviour and training observations and plans for retired bitches or stud dogs if they are not to remain with you as the breeder.

In case that wasn’t patronising enough, there is also a new star rating system.

 

The Star Rating system

Outlined in the ‘Procedural Guidance for Animal Activity Licensing 2018,’ the powers that be now get to decide what makes a good breeder. This star-rating system will reward good breeding establishments with lower fees and longer renewal periods (the maximum being a 3-year license). It is difficult to imagine how any genuine animal lover would fail these requirements anyway, the most important of which are:

  • Socialisation for all your animals
  • Safe spaces for your pet to avoid other dogs and people if they choose
  • Cosy, safe and warm bed for your pet
  • Appropriate nutrition and weaning diets for puppies and adult dogs
  • Not selling puppies less than 8-weeks old
  • Twice daily exercise for your dogs – but with no distinction formally made between the requirements of different breeds, nor any information on how they plan to police this.

This legislation is supposedly aimed primarily at “puppy-farms” and improving the welfare of dogs within larger breeding establishments, and most in-home breeders will far exceed these requirements anyway. Yet, it’s these smaller scale breeders who will bare the brunt of the stress and cost of this new legislation. Larger commercial enterprises are much more able to afford the new license, find loopholes, or simply pack up and move outside the jurisdiction. It’s worth remembering that, for now, this is an England-only act. Any larger commercial breeding enterprises in Wales and Scotland are free to continue or even increase the scale of their breeding, whilst their English ‘competitors’ struggle with new restrictions.

 

The trading allowance

There is some confusion among breeders with regard to the £1000 trading allowance. 2016’s budget announced the establishment of a £1000 trading allowance within the United Kingdom. This allowance is a tax exemption for people involved in casual work such as babysitting or hiring out your personal equipment; dog breeding falls under this exemption. Therefore, if your earnings from dog breeding (or other non-employment activities) is less than £1000 in a 12-month period then you are not required to register with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs Service (HMRC). If, however, you earn more than £1000 per year from your hobby of dog breeding (either producing litters or having a dog at stud) then you must legally register with HMRC.

It is my personal suspicion that this act is as much about getting more dog breeders onto HMRC’s radar as it is about animal welfare. This act effectively forces a large proportion of serious hobby breeders to start thinking about and accounting for their activities as a small business.

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