What's the issue?
Puppy farming is the term used when unscrupulous breeders prioritise profit over animal health and welfare. Dogs are often kept isolated in small pens and used to produce multiple litters a year. Puppies are then sold to unsuspecting owners.
We know that 70% of pet owners in the UK do some research before getting a pet, but 1 in 4 owners – 5.2 million people – admit to doing no research at all, exacerbating the problem.
Vets see first hand the tragic consequences of puppies being bred in deplorable conditions and taken away from their mothers at a very young age. They often suffer from disease, other health problems, and poor socialisation, leading to heartache and financial costs for the new owners.
Dog breeding is currently regulated in the UK:
- in England the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 make it mandatory for anyone breeding and selling 3 or more litters of puppies in a year to have a licence. Breeders must meet certain conditions to protect the welfare of puppies and their parents. The third party sale of puppies and kitten has been banned under Lucy's Law.
- in Wales the Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014 require anyone breeding 3 or more litters of puppies in a 12-month period to have a licence.
- in Northern Ireland the Welfare of Animals (Dog breeding establishments and miscellaneous amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 require anyone who owns 3 or more breeding bitches or who is breeding more than 3 litters of puppies a year for sale to have a licence.
in Scotland the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 require anyone breeding 5 or more litters in a 12-month period to have a licence. We have responded to the Scottish Government review on 2018 (441 KB PDF) of these regulations.
What's our view?
Irresponsible dog breeding and puppy farming have a detrimental effect on the health and welfare of breeding bitches and their litters. Too often vets see the devastating consequences of poor breeding practices which can lead to suffering for the animals and their new owners.
A puppy should never be bought on impulse without undertaking proper research. Owning any pet is a life-changing commitment.
The veterinary profession plays an important role in promoting responsible pet ownership. We advise prospective owners to speak to their local vet about a pre-purchase consultation.
You should never buy or rehome a puppy without a Puppy Contract and using the 10-step guide to buying a puppy responsibly. If a seller is not willing to provide the information listed in the Puppy Contract, you should walk away and report any concerns to local authorities.
We also advise anyone thinking about getting a dog to buy directly from a reputable breeder (eg members of the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme) or go to a recognised UK rehoming charity.