Thousands of puppy dealers are at risk of prosecution, says Animal Protection Services. The animal welfare charity is warning that, following a successful prosecution at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court, more private criminal prosecutions are due to follow across England.

The latest private criminal prosecution, the first of its kind aimed at those operating a business of selling dogs, highlights concerns that the licensing regime in England is not being adequately enforced. The undermining of the statutory licencing regime for the breeding and sale of animals has a wider community impact including animal welfare and consumer protection concerns. Animal Protection Services believes that prosecution is a proportionate response.

The warning comes at a time when the COVID-19 puppy demand has seen a sharp increase in the volume of licensing and animal welfare offences, from unlicensed breeding, puppy importation, puppy farming, and an all-time high of dog thefts.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 came into force on the 1st October 2018 and require those who sell animals as pets as a business and/or those who breed more than three litters of puppies per year to be licensed by the local authority.

The test as to whether a person is running a “business” for the purposes of the Regulations includes whether the person makes any sale by, otherwise carries on, the activity with the view to making a profit, or earning any commission or fee from the activity. A further test that may be applied is that prescribed by HMRC to test whether “hobby traders”, those that buy and sell on social media or the Internet as a hobby, are running a business. The HMRC operates a rule that those who make £1,000 or more per annum are treated as a business and need to account for tax.

COVID-19 has seen inflated prices for puppies across England, resulting in the average price of puppies in 2020 being £1,875, in comparison to £808 in 2019, according to a Pets4Homes Industry Report. That is an increase of 131% in just one year.

Demand for COVID-19 puppies rose by 104% compared to the prior year at the peak of the lockdown. It is said that, during this time, 420 buyers were competing for every one pet available for sale. This has since decreased to 200 buyers for every pet for sale.

A spokesperson for Animal Protection Services said: “Thousands of puppy breeders and dealers are at risk of criminal prosecution. If you earn a profit of £1,000 or more per annum, you may be treated as operating a business of selling dogs.”

“If you sell dogs without an appropriate license issued by the local authority, you will be held accountable for your actions and you will be pursued. This is not a grey area and ignorance is not an excuse”, added the spokesperson.

Animal Protection Services has said it has further cases awaiting prosecution at Magistrates’ and Crown Courts across England. The charity added that all prosecutions are recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC) meaning that defendants who are convicted will face a criminal record.

Notes to Editors:

For more information or interview requests please contact Animal Protection Services on 0330 120 0909 or by email

Animal Protection Services is a registered charity that investigates and prosecutes organised animal cruelty. The charity carries out private criminal prosecutions, utilising powers contained in section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Find out more about the work of the charity on the website at Registered charity in England and Wales with the charity number 1186401.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *