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Are Dog Breeders Regulated?

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Published on
Monday 5 October 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
are dog breeders regulated
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Many owners and those involved in dog industries have concerns about the welfare in dog breeding. Dog breeder regulations exist to enforce high standards of care and welfare for stud dogs, bitches, and every puppy. However, every country has different regulations to enforce and by different governing bodies.

Every breeder from a one-time hobbyist breeder to full-time dog breeders have to follow the anti-cruelty rules. Your area’s governing body will dictate these. But who regulates dog breeders and what are these regulations? We will answer these questions for you so you can ensure you are breeding your dogs properly and their welfare is high.

Who Regulates Dog Breeders in the US?

The US follow the 1966 Animal Welfare Act (AWA) as their main form of documentation. It prevents harm from coming to animals in America. As opposed to the UK AWA which was most recently updated in 2006. This is governed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Animal Care. It is the only federal law to manage the care of animals in all different circumstances such as in transportation or in research. Along with federal law, each state has their own specific animal care laws. Each state also has their own dog breeding regulations that need to be followed.

Every single dog breeder from an accidental pregnancy to a full-blown career has to follow their state laws alongside the US Animal Welfare Act. These documentations regulate the care and breeding of dogs and aim to prevent backyard breeding through enforced laws. However, it can be difficult to criminalize backyard breeding because it does not always cross the line of cruelty. If any dog cruelty is implemented through dog breeding, the state will refer to their direct animal cruelty laws. Then the USDA analyzes what areas of the AWA have been broken.

There are also various ways to complain about a specific dog breeder.

dog breeder regulations
Every country has different dog breeder regulations.

What are Dog Breeder Regulations?

All areas of dog breeding are regulated to ensure that every breeder is meeting the basic standards of animal care in every required area. APHIS states that breeders must “housing, sanitation, food, water, and protection against extremes of weather and temperature” among other elements. We have summarized the four main areas of care that are included in dog breeder regulations.

Accurate Records


You may wonder why keeping accurate records requires regulation and how it relates to good animal care? Well, APHIS requires you to keep two kinds of records: sources of your dogs alongside dates of acquisition and
. Keeping records makes sure that dogs are being acquired ethically. It also ensures that dog breeding is not occurring too often and that puppies are being sold at the right age. There is the possibility that backyard breeders may lie to cover up unethical practices. Signed records act as proof to governing bodies that this is not the case.

Although, why does the government regulate these categories in particular? Monitoring the source of a purchased dog for breeding ensure that they have come from a healthy genetic line. It also exists to show that dogs have had the proper vaccinations, and genetic testing to ensure that the individual is viable to breed from. This helps to avoid hereditary diseases which leads to puppies with poor health. Acquisition and disposition require monitoring to prevent very young dog sales alongside monitoring any contracts agreed upon by seller and buyer. Records act as a log of proof of ethical management and care of every dog that a breeder owns.

Living Conditions

The APHIS requires every breeder to offer their dog good standards of care in every applicable area. We can summarize these into food, water, housing, cleanliness, and comfort. However, difficulties can lie when breeders argue that the lines of care can be ambiguous. Such as offering a bitch a clean room with a lack of enrichment, is this enough?

According to the code of federal legislation for animals, each dog requires it’s “full dietary and nutrition requirements each day”. Unless there is a good reason not to. Not only that, but no dog care should “cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort”. This means each breeder needs to supply their dogs with proper clean conditions. Along with the appropriate enrichment for their life stage and condition. This means that bitches with a litter may require heat lamps, or pregnant dogs may require extra quiet areas. Their care is specific and requires research to meet the dog breeder regulations.


The AWA cannot go into detail about every species required diet for every variation of circumstance and individual. It just isn’t feasible. However, they state in section 2.131 that each animal must receive “full dietary and nutrition requirements each day”. This should not only be considered in relation to the species but the individual. For example, according to the AKC, a pregnant dog is going to require:

  • 29 percent protein
  • 17 percent fat
  • Soluble carbohydrates (large amounts)
  • Low fiber
  • Between 1 and 1.8 percent of calcium
  • Phosphorous (between 0.8 and 1.6 percent)

You also need to make sure that any dog is receiving their required calories daily to ensure good health but also not too many to create obesity. An overweight dog is just as unhealthy as an underweight dog.


There are many different dog breeder regulations that are applicable in conjunction with veterinary care. Firstly, every vet used to care for a dog in a breeder’s care must be a licensed veterinarian with a valid license to practice veterinary medicine in the area. Some countries require different licensing for practice and you need to ensure that whoever you hire is a licensed professional.

Every breeder must also have a vet available to call for any emergency care required for a dog. This is especially important for dog breeders as any dog giving birth needs an emergency vet available to call in case. This is classified as basic care and is part of dog breeder regulations that all breeders must follow.

vet of regulated dog breeders
Dog breeders should choose a licensed vet that is available on call.

Are “Backyard” Breeders Regulated?

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to regulate backyard breeding. There are so many breeders that do not come under the radar of the USDA because they are hobbyist breeders. Therefore they are not prolific enough to be noticed.

Furthermore, these breeders will often spread their sales online, using different locations of sales and different usernames. Therefore, authorities struggle to capture them or recognize them as reoccurring breeders as opposed to non-knowledgeable owners that are selling a litter from an accidental pregnancy.

The problem with regulating backyard breeders is that the USA would have to consider creating a specific legislative protocol to enforce, but creating legislation is a difficult and lengthy procedure. Especially trying to tiptoe between the lines of animal abuse and more money and business orientated dog breeder. Breeding a puppy may be classified as animal abuse through the law, however, breeding a young dog the maximum amount you can do so legally in a year isn’t technically a crime. Similarly, it is very difficult to prove that a breeder knowingly bred from a dog with health issues. In other words, a disease that could be passed on through hereditary genetics.

Dog Breeder Regulations in the UK

Dog breeder regulations differ in the UK as although they follow their own version of the AWA (2006), the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) regulate dog breeders. From 2018 this has been the governing body for all dog breeding welfare and activity legislation. From staffing to the environment and their diet, this legislation is very specific in what they want for each breeding dog. The UK requirements are much more specific with recommendations, such as behavior and training of dogs in a breeder’s care.


DEFRA also details what qualifications each employee must posses for higher standards and regular standards. This allows breeders to aim higher to create a business more ethical, reputable, and something to boast about to aid sales. Therefore, it is a win-win and is a tactic used to minimize British backyard breeding. There are also guidance schemes put in place to aid you with the best care. Such as providing non-slip flooring on kennels or windows being escape-proof. These are to ensure the minimum standards of care by breeders. Care also branches to areas such as walks and exercise considerations for all life stages. These documents are great for the welfare of the dogs but smaller backyard breeders will rarely be checked up on to see if they are enforcing these rules. Especially as they are not joined to a kennel club.

To ensure that all your dog breeder regulation questions have been answered, we have answered the four most searched questions below.

Should Dog Breeding be Regulated?

We believe that all dog breeding should be regulated in order to ensure high welfare standards by each breeder. A lack of regulations may lead to a puppy mill, a business which operates for finances and welfare will suffer. Often, these mills will breed dogs as soon as they are sexually viable or finished with a pregnancy. This will continue until they are no longer able to have puppies. This can lead to puppies being undernourished, females experiencing extreme fatigue, and even death.

Regulations exist to prevent these breeders and backyard breeders from over breeding, providing poor standards of care, and selling unhealthy animals.

Can you Sell Puppies Without a License?

You can usually sell puppies without a license, but it depends on the state you live in and how frequently you are breeding and selling dogs. If you are a hobbyist dog breeder, selling one or to litters every few years, you will probably not need any licensing.

However, if you are selling multiple litters per year you will have to obtain a commercial breeder license. If you are not sure, check your state’s laws and licensing to see whether you require a dog breeding license. A complete license will cost $10 and will require a taxpayer ID form and an APHIS Form 7003-A.

What are the Rules on Selling Puppies?

There is no one set of rules to follow. It depends on where you live and how many dogs you are breeding. However, we can summarize some general rules for you to follow. Advertise with complete honesty. Start off by using pictures of your dogs and not others, as this can be misleading. You should also include details about the individuals you are selling, age, coloring, gender, and whether they are of the breed standard are a few to include.

As for pricing, this all depends on the breed you are selling alongside how close they are to the breed standard. Finally, you should also consider a puppy contract that honors an agreement between the seller and buyer. It ensures high welfare by both parties and also confirms outcomes for unfortunate circumstances, such as a return

How to Legally Sell Puppies?

The key to selling puppies legally is to do so with honesty. If you are a hobbyist breeder, selling a few litters every few years, you do not even require licensing. Post advertisements with details of the puppy and make sure to have a puppy contract composed.

A contract should be agreed upon by both the breeder and buyer and it should cover everything from the diet being provided to recommended training plans. Contracts ensure that both the seller and buyer are happy with all agreements. As well as providing evidence of this in case one party tried to feign ignorance to part of the agreement.

how to legally sell puppies
Always be honest when selling puppies.

Dog breeder regulations are crucial to ensure high welfare standards in the dog breeding industry. They prevent backyard breeding and puppy mills as much as possible. Regulations also allow breeders of poor standards to be held accountable for their lack of welfare.

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