Breeding Dogs


Multiple pieces of legislation apply to dog owners in Northern Ireland. This guide will help you understand your responsibilities, but it is not to be considered legal advice. The information below applies to Northern Ireland only. The rules may be different in the Republic of Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland.

Breeding Dogs

If you breed from your dogs, you many need to obtain a licence from your local government district.

So called ‘hobby breeders’, who do not sell more than 2 litters per year do not require a licence.

However, if you breed or sell more than 3 litters in a 12-month period you are deemed to be operating a dog breeding establishment. A dog breeding establishment is defined as one or more premises, within the same area, operated by the same person and from which that person keeps three or more breeding bitches, and either:

·       breeds three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period

·       advertises three or more litters of puppies for sale in any 12-month period

·       supplies three or more litters of puppies in any 12-month period, or

·       advertises a business of breeding or selling puppies.

A dog breeding establishment must obtain a licence from their local government district Premises will be inspected by local government district inspectors before a licence is granted. Inspections will ensure that breeders meet welfare standards regarding:

·       the accommodation and environment

·       the suitability of whelping facilities

·       the suitability of the diet

·       socialisation, enrichment and enhancement opportunities available to bitches and puppies

·       health and access to veterinary treatment, vaccinations etc.

Before granting or renewing a licence the local government district will also require evidence of proper record keeping – e.g., the identification of breeding bitches, puppies etc.  

You cannot apply for a dog breeding licence if you have been disqualified under any of the following Acts:

·       the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973

·       the Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 (amended)

·       the Welfare of Animals (Northern Ireland) Act 2011

·       Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963

·       The Protection of Animals Act 1954

·       The Pet Animals Act 1951

You may also need permission from your landlord or mortgage provider, and should check with Building Control and Belfast Planning Service to ensure you have all the relevant documents and approvals. It is your responsibility to make sure all that these checks have been made. There are different fees for each breeding establishment depending on the number of bitches kept there.

The Irish and English Kennel Clubs require breeders to have a breeding establishment licence, or registration will be refused.

Dogs used for breeding must also be licenced [insert link to licencing tab]

What can happen if I break the law?

It is an offence to operate a dog breeding establishment without a licence.  It is also an offence to contravene any condition of a licence to keep a dog breeding establishment.  The penalty for these offences is a fine not exceeding level £5,000, and/or imprisonment for a period of up to 6 months.


Welfare of Animals (Dog Breeding Establishments and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013