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SHDC is asking people to check licenses if they are thinking about buying a puppy

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SHDC is asking people to check licenses if they are thinking about buying a puppy

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With the rise in dog ownership since lockdown, the price of puppies has increased dramatically, meaning that sadly, so has the number of people willing to cut corners to make a quick buck. 

According to the charity PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals), 24 per cent of adults in the UK now own a dog – that’s over 10 million dogs and a lot of licks and love.

However, there’s also a murkier side to the rise in dog-ownership in the South Hams. Unfortunately, the demand for dogs has driven up the price of puppies. Where there is money to be made, there are also, sadly, people who want to make more cash with no concern for animal welfare.

Luckily, there is something you can do to make sure you are not accidentally funding the cruel puppy trade. South Hams District Council explains how licensing helps to protect the health and welfare of dogs and can give you confidence you’re buying a happy, healthy puppy.

Buy from a licensed breeder

When you’re buying a puppy from someone you don’t know, you can check to see if they are licensed for your peace of mind. To obtain a licence, a breeder must follow certain conditions and the premises will be inspected.

Puppy farms breed puppies in poor conditions and often sell sick or traumatised animals. These places will not be able to get a genuine licence from their local council.

When is a dog breeding licence required?

Breeders must be licensed through their local council. A dog breeding licence is required if:

  • a person breeds three or more litters per 12 month period (and sells any of the puppies), or
  • a person breeds dogs and advertises a business of selling dogs (this relates to whether or not profit is made, trading income, number of adverts posted, how the adverts are made etc). This applies regardless of the amount of litters
  • If a person meets one of the above two conditions and does not have a dog breeding licence, then they are committing a criminal offence

Licensing conditions are in place to protect the health and welfare of the dogs. For example, to prevent issues such as:

  • overbreeding (a bitch must not be mated until at least 12 months after her last litter)
  • underage breeding (a bitch must not be mated until at least 12 months old)

It is a criminal offence for a licensed breeder to breach these conditions.

How can people check if they are dealing with a licenced breeder? Is there any kind of register they can be checked against?

All licensed breeders must include the following information in all adverts:

  • The licence number
  • The name of the Local Authority (for example South Hams District Council) that issued the licence.
  • Licensed breeders must also display a copy of their licence in a prominent position on their premises. If breeders have not done this or are unable to provide a copy of their licence then they are very likely to be unlicensed.

Breeders are licensed through their local council. The public can check any licence number advertised against the South Hams District Council public register to confirm that the breeder has been licensed and inspected. The South Hams public register can be found at:

South Hams District Council’s Executive Member for Environmental Health and Licencing, Cllr Jonathan Hawkins, said: “Our dog breeding licences give you peace of mind that when you fall in love with that cute fur-ball, you’re buying a happy and healthy puppy. We know how important dog welfare is for every family planning to buy a puppy and we also know how important this is for the vast majority of breeders.

"By taking a few minutes to check that the licence is in order before you buy, you can sit back and look forward to years of fun and frolics with your new four-legged friend.”

What does the official paperwork look like?

The licence should contain the following information:

  • The name and logo of the local council.
  • Licence number
  • Details of the breeder (name and address)
  • Details of the bitches licensed for breeding
  • The star rating of the breeder
  • The date the licence was issued and expires
  • During the period of a licence, the operator receives one planned visit and one unannounced visit from an Officer from the Council. This is to ensure that licence conditions are being met and that there is an appropriate level of animal welfare being provided. At each planned inspection a star rating is given, which is based on welfare standards found at the time of the inspection. The star rating system is a national system to provide customers with information about the animal establishments.

The below scoring matrix determines the star rating. It takes into account the animal welfare standards adopted by the business and the level of risk (based on elements such as past compliance and how long the licence has been held for).



What about other animals?

There are four other animal activities which are also licensed:

  • selling animals as pets
  • providing for or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs (this includes home boarding)
  • training animals for exhibition
  • hiring out horses
  • Any person operating a business carrying out one of the above animal activities without a licence is committing a criminal offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for up to six months, a fine or both.

If you would like any further information, please visit

If you can, also look into adopting a dog, cat or other animal and giving them their forever home. Local rescue centres include Woodside Animal Sanctuary, Plympton; Animals in Distress, Newton Abbot; Country Hill Animal Shelter, Kingsbridge; and Gables Farm, Plymouth.  


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