Press release

Animal welfare boosted by new law coming into force

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 come into force today


New regulations have come into force today (Monday 1 October) to strengthen animal welfare, particularly around puppy sales, in England.

These will:

  • Ensure that breeders must show puppies alongside their mother before a sale is made.
  • Tighten regulations so that puppy sales are completed in the presence of the new owner – preventing online sales where prospective buyers have not seen the animal first.
  • Ban licensed sellers from dealing in puppies and kittens under the age of eight weeks.
  • Regulate adverts, including on the internet, by ensuring licensed sellers of all pets include the seller’s licence number, country of origin and country of residence of the pet in any advert for sale.
  • Introduce a new “star rating” for dog breeders, pet shops and others to help people rate them on their animal welfare standards.

These regulations, which are strongly supported by animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA who’ve campaigned for a number of years, complement the government’s commitment to introduce a ban on third party sales of puppy and kitten sales which has recently been consulted on.

Animal Welfare Minister, David Rutley, said:

These regulations will end mistreatment and malpractice of puppies and crack down on unscrupulous breeders so pet owners will have no doubt their new dogs have had the right start in life.

The licensing systems for businesses that work with animals have not been reformed for almost fifty years. The changes in place from today simplify these into one system for local authorities, help consumers to make better informed decisions and will further improve animal welfare.

These changes form part of our efforts to ensure we have the highest animal welfare standards in the world. This includes making CCTV cameras mandatory in all slaughterhouses as well as our plans to increase prison sentences from six months to five years for animal abusers.

The myriad of licensing systems that local authorities use to regulate businesses which deal with animals, or animal activities, have been in place for over 50 years. This has led to outdated regulations meaning some businesses require several licences and others, such as home boarding and dog day care businesses, were not always covered.

These regulations introduce a new system for local authorities to use for the different areas of activity (detailed below), simplifying the licences needed by businesses, ensuring all businesses working with animals are covered and driving up animal welfare standards.

A key part of these new licences will be a new “star rating” (out of five) for dog breeders, pet shops and other licensed activities involving animals. This rates these businesses, on welfare and other grounds, and helps buyers use the best breeders as well as local authorities to more heavily regulate the poorer rated (such as through more welfare inspections, increased costs and shorter licences).

This announcement follows a public consultation which ran from 20 December 2015 to 12 March 2016.

The five areas of licensed activities with animals by businesses are:

  • Selling animals as pets
  • Providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats of dogs
  • Hiring out horses
  • Breeding dogs and
  • Keeping or training animals for exhibition
Published 1 October 2018