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O’Neill announces new Dog Breeding Regulations

Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill has announced new legislation to regulate all commercial dog breeders.
Monday, 18 February 2013

The Welfare of Animals (Dog Breeding Establishments and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (NI) 2013 will come into force on the 1 April 2013.

Minister O’Neill said: “These Regulations set out clear welfare standards with which commercial dog breeders must comply. They provide the powers to allow action to be taken where a breeder does not meet these standards. Council inspectors will have strong enforcement powers to take action and to prosecute as necessary any commercial breeder who is operating in sub-standard conditions.”

The Minister added: “I appreciate that regulation alone will not stop so called “puppy farming”. This will take a concerted effort by members of the public, future dog owners, good breeders and enforcement agencies working together to identify breeders, licensed or unlicensed, who put financial gain before the welfare needs of their dogs and pups. However, the new enforcement powers and tough penalties will act as a strong deterrent to those taking part in illegal dog breeding activities, sending out a clear message that such activities will not be tolerated.”

The Minister continued: “I would call on all future dog owners never to buy a pup from a breeder who suggests meeting you in a car park or other public place to save you travelling to their breeding establishment. Always insist on seeing the puppies with their mother. Working together we can and will stop puppy farming.”

All the provisions in the new Regulations will have immediate effect for new dog breeders, however any dog breeders currently registered with their local Council will have six months, after the expiry of their current registration, to comply with a number of conditions of the licence which may require structural work to be undertake to the premises. New Dogs (Guard Dog Kennels) Regulations 2013 will also come into operation on the 1 April 2013.

Notes to editors:

  1. In the Welfare of Animals (Dog Breeding Establishments and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (NI) 2013 a breeding establishment is defined as one or more premises, within the same District Council area, operated by the same person from which that person keeps three or more breeding bitches; and

    (a) breeds three or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period;
    (b) advertises three or more litters of puppies for sale in any 12 month period;
    (c) supplies three or more litters of puppies in any 12 month period; or
    (d) advertises a business of breeding or selling of puppies.
  2. The Regulations include:

    a new definition for a commercial breeding establishment;
    the requirement for all commercial breeding establishment to apply and obtain a breeding establishment licence;
    an exemption for licensed dog breeding establishment from the requirement to obtain a block licence under the Dogs (NI) Order 1983 ;
    the requirement to microchip all dogs and pups in the establishment;
    the requirement to adhere to the licence conditions;
    a control on the age a bitch can be breed at and the number of litters she that can be produced in her lifetime;
    a minimum age a pup can leave the breeder;
    the need for breeding establishments to maintain records and introduce written socialisation and enrichment programmes for approval by the council , and
    an exemption for registered hunt clubs who do not sell dogs or pups and registered charities that do not breed dogs.
  3. As new Regulations are being made for dog breeding establishments, the provisions in the Dogs (Breeding Establishments and Guard Dog Kennels) Regulations (NI) 1983 in respect of breeding establishments will be revoked. It is not legally permissible to retain the existing Breeding Establishments and Guard Dog Regulations containing only the provisions relating to guard dog kennels, so those provisions in relation to guard dog kennels will be remade, unchanged, under the Dogs Order 1983 at the same time as the Dog Breeding Establishments Regulations are made. This will have no impact in practice other than to make a separate set of Regulations dealing with guard dog kennels only.
  4. Councils enforce the current legislation in respect of dog breeding establishments and the new Regulations will not change this. Any additional costs to Councils associated with licensing a dog breeding establishment will be covered by the introduction of the licence fee which will apply a sliding scale charge based on the business size. This will provide full cost recovery to councils to licence and monitor as necessary, dog breeding establishments to ensure the welfare of the bitches, dogs and puppies.
  5. Whilst these Regulations do not include hobby breeders, registered hunt clubs or registered charities the general provisions in the Welfare of Animals Act provide general powers to allow any animal welfare complaint in respect of these breeders or organisations to be fully investigated and enforcement action taken by the Councils’ Animal Welfare Officers.
  6. Information on buying a puppy can be sourced from NI Direct, Dogs Trust, or the Kennel Club websites.
  7. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email: DARD Press Office. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.