The Law & Society Rules

The following may not be taken as a statement of fact that you rely upon to carry out your business. The purpose is to bring to your attention responsibilities if you breed sheepdog pups. If you need to know if you are complying with the law you should consult your local council.

There are laws regulating breeding and the sale of pups within the British Isles. Although some ISDS Members will fall within the scope of these laws the majority will not. However, it may be helpful for all to understand, in summary, what these laws say. There is the complication of where the jurisdiction extends to, and to whom it might apply. More recently, UK Government animal legislation has been ‘issued’ through Defra and applies within England. Typically, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Authority then enact the law within their territory at a slightly later date, similarly for Northern Ireland. Certainly, the 1999 Act referred to below applies in England, Wales and Scotland.

The Breeding of Dogs Act 1973, The Breeding of Dogs Act 1991 and the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999.

This series of Acts was put in place to deal with the problems of 'puppy farms' and the welfare issues arising. It says that “Anyone who is in the business of breeding and selling dogs will require a licence from the local authority under the 1973 Act as amended by the 1999 Act. The local authority has discretion whether to grant a licence and must ensure that the animals will be suitably accommodated, fed, exercised and protected from disease and fire. It is for local authorities, who have extensive powers to check on the standards of health, welfare and accommodation of the animals, to enforce the requirements of the Act.”

So the issue is to work out if you are “in the business of breeding and selling”. One local authority says that a breeding establishment is "where 5 or more litters are born, to one or more bitches, for the purpose of sale, in the period of one year." It may be the case that a council would take an interest in premises where two bitches were being bred from, but that does not infer that the owner had to be licensed. The law is quite broad in its detail because it covers loopholes where an unscrupulous person places bitches with friends or family. Local authorities (councils) carry out the licensing in the interests of animal welfare and consumer protection. Licences to breed dogs for sale are issued under the Breeding of Dogs Acts 1973 & 1991 and are renewable annually. The council will arrange for the premises to be inspected by a veterinary surgeon to ensure the accommodation is suitable for the welfare of animals. In addition, the 1991 Act extended the powers of local authorities to obtain a warrant to enter any premises, excluding a private dwelling house, in which it is believed that a dog breeding business is being carried out. All outbuildings, garages and sheds are open to inspection.

If you are a Licensed Breeder then the 1999 Act applies to you and it states that bitches may not be mated until they are at least one year old and that they give birth to no more than six litters in a lifetime and no more than one litter per year. Accurate breeding records must be maintained by the establishment. Penalties for abuse are stiff and include imprisonment.

The Society position is that it expects all Members to comply with the spirit of the law, whether licensed or not, when seeking to register dogs in the ISDS Stud Book. This is to offer the best welfare to breeding bitches. However, we recognise that accidents in mating dates can happen and feel it is not in the interest of the pups to deny registration should a bitch have more that one litter in a year on the very rare occasion that this happens – if the pups are going to be born it is better that they be registered and identified.

Thus, the Society Rules note that owners are advised to follow the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act of 1999, whether they are registered breeders or not, so that bitches are not mated until they are at least one year old, and limiting them to one litter per year and six litters in a lifetime. There are Society Rules to regulate the frequency of breeding. If a bitch has had two litters within any two year period the Rules are imposed if a Mating Card is presented with a mating date falling in the same period. The Society will register that third litter but require that the bitch be rested for one whole year following the litter birth. Thus these Rules will not permit the registration of more than three litters to a bitch in any three year period. By this means the Society supports the welfare principles of the law.

Obviously, if you buy a bitch you are going to ask about her breeding history and will know when she can next be bred from. If you need to check or confirm a bitch’s breeding history the Society will offer a telephone enquiry service. Just give the bitch’s ISDS number and a reason why you are enquiring, and we will be able to tell your what litters have been registered.

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