The law and puppy breeding: explained

There are laws in place to protect the welfare of all animals. You can find out more about those that specifically apply to the breeding and selling of puppies in Scotland below.

There are similar laws and restrictions in England and Wales, however please check with your local authority and enforcement agencies for further information. If you do have any concerns about the selling or breeding of puppies in Scotland, England or Wales, please report your concerns.

Anyone who breeds and sells more than five litters of pups in any one year period must be licensed with the local authority under:

  • Breeding of Dogs Act 1972
  • The Breeding of Dogs Act 1991
  • Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999
  • The Licensing of Animal Dealers (Young Cats and Young Dogs)(Scotland) Regulations 2009
  • Microchipping of Dogs (Scotland) Regulations 2016
Sellers need a licence if they are:
  • Breeding and selling five or more litters in a year
  • Advertising a business breeding and selling dogs
  • Selling dogs commercially, such as in a pet shop
  • Selling puppies under the age of 12 weeks, even if they are not the breeder
Sellers do not need a licence if they are:
  • Selling a puppy from an animal sanctuary or rehoming centre
  • Selling an offspring of a dog they are keeping as a pet
  • Selling no more than two puppies in any 12 month period
  • Already a licensed breeder
  • A Pet Shop licence holder
  • An animal sanctuary or rescue centre
What does having a licence mean?

A licensed breeder is not normally classed as a puppy farm as they should only be breeding from stock listed on their licence (however, this is not always the case). An illegal puppy farm will aim to supply any type of pup that is in demand by the public. They may be licenced but will ignore any restrictions stated in the licence in order to maximise profit.

If someone is applying for a licence for the first time a veterinary surgeon or local authority inspector must inspect the premises to check that accommodation is suitable, ensure dogs are receiving all the care they require (food, water, exercise, bedding and protected from diseases) and that they are safeguarded against any emergencies. If dogs are being transported they will also ensure this is being done in a safe and comfortable manner. A breeder requires a licence if the dogs are kept at a different location to the address stated on their original licence application. This includes if relatives, or any other person who has a breeding arrangement with the licence holder, have the dogs at their property. Anyone can ask to see a breeder’s licence or ask the local authority where they are based before buying a puppy. Licences must be renewed on an annual basis, however if you do have any doubts or concerns please report your concerns to the relevant agency.”


All dogs over eight weeks old must be microchipped. It is an offence to transfer a dog older than eight weeks to another owner without first ensuring that it is microchipped and that the details of the current owner have been registered. After transfer it is the responsibility of the new owner to ensure that the details on the database are updated. Breeders must identify themselves as a breeder (the keeper of any bitch that whelps) regardless as to whether they are carrying it out as a business or not and be registered on a compliant microchip database.

Buying a dog from abroad:

If a dog is born outside the UK it must have either a pet passport or a veterinary certificate. The pet passport needs to confirm that the dog was vaccinated against rabies at the correct age and that it has been treated for tapeworm.

Penalties for breaking the law:
  • Anybody found guilty of running a dog breeding establishment without a licence may be subject to a fine up to £2,500
  • Anybody found guilty of failing to comply with the conditions of their licence may be subject to a fine up to £2,500
  • Anybody found guilty of obstructing or delaying an inspector or authorised veterinary surgeon or practitioner in the exercising of their powers may be fined up to £1,000
  • Breeding without a licence can result in imprisonment for up to three months