Licensing of dog, cat and rabbit breeding activities: consultation responses

Summary of responses to our consultation on proposals to introduce new regulations for the licensing of dog, cat and rabbit breeding activities in Scotland.


The practice of breeding dogs in Scotland is governed by the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999. Under these Acts, a licence is required for any individual who keeps a breeding establishment.

A breeding establishment is where a person undertakes the business of breeding dogs for sale, owns or is responsible for breeding bitches which produce a total of five or more litters between them in a 12 month period. The Breeding of Dogs Act 1991 provides for inspection of premises unlicensed for the purposes of dog breeding. The breeding of cats and rabbits is currently unregulated.

The dealing of young dogs and cats is regulated by the Licensing of Animal Dealers (Young Cats and Young Dogs) (Scotland) Regulations 2009. Under the regulations an individual who sells or acquires a cat or dog at less than 84 days old, with a view to sell requires an animal dealing licence. The dealing of young rabbits is currently unregulated.

These licences are granted subject to compliance with a set of standards, specific to the type of activity in question. They enable local authorities to inspect the premises, allow an appeals process to the courts in case of refusal or imposition of onerous conditions, provide that operating without a licence is an offence, and set out a number of disqualifications that are relevant to the local authority when assessing licence applications (such as a conviction for animal cruelty). They also permit a local authority to recover the costs for inspection, processing, and enforcement expenditure through a licence fee.

Despite these Acts and the ongoing work of many animal welfare organisations and enforcement agencies, serious animal welfare concerns remain, in particular with regard to puppies, for which there is an increasing demand.

The Programme for Government 2017-18 committed the Scottish Government to prepare legislation for a modern system of licensing of dog, cat and rabbit breeding activities, allowing for independent accreditation of applicants. The overall aim is to regulate this area to protect animal welfare in a way that is not unduly burdensome for those doing a good job at present, while being effective in dealing with cases where welfare is not being sufficiently protected.

Animal welfare is a devolved matter and the consultation applied to the proposed introduction of regulations on the licensing of dog, cat and rabbit breeding activities depending on the size of the undertaking in Scotland only. The consultation covered proposals to introduce new secondary legislation under powers contained in the Animal Health and Welfare Act (Scotland) 2006.

The consultation covered proposals to update the minimum legal requirements for dog, cat and rabbit breeding activities based on current scientific and technical evidence on animal health and welfare. It is proposed that this will be set out in revised regulations, which will mean that in future changes can be made more easily by amending regulations rather than changing primary legislation.

The consultation provided an opportunity for all interested parties to scrutinise and comment on these proposals. The evidence gathered from the consultation will inform the regulations we will lay before the Scottish Parliament for its approval.



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