Do we have puppy farms in Ireland and are they legal?

On the 1st January 2012, the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 came into force. All premises where  six or more female dogs are kept which are more than 6 months old and capable of being used for breeding purposes are required to be registered under the Dog Breeding Establishments Act, 2010. Any premises to which the new regulations apply will need to register with their local authority and ensure that their premises conform to the guidelines. Failure to register with your local authority is an offence. A scale of fees applies.

The Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) has put in place a revised set of Guidelines for Dog Breeding Establishments. 

Anyone seeking to carry out dog breeding in Ireland has a number of legal obligations in addition to those of any pet owner. In order to comply with the Act the owner or manager of a dog breeding establishment should provide accommodation and equipment which suits the physical, behavioural and social requirements of the dogs held. The owner should protect the dogs from other animals and adverse environmental conditions, provide sufficient space for dogs to stand, move around freely, stretch fully and rest, along with sufficient quantities of appropriate food and clean water to maintain good health and support optimal growth and reproduction. Owners or managers should also protect the dogs from disease, distress, injury, fear and pain, maintain the hygiene of the breeding premises and health of the dogs held, and ensure the premises is appropriately licensed under the Control of Dogs Acts 1986 to 2010.

Registering a Dog Breeding Establishment

Any premises other than a registered hunt club, charitable organisation or commercial boarding kennel must also pay an application fee. The local authority can visit the premises before granting registration.

If a dog breeding establishment is successfully registered, the manager will be issued with a certificate. The certificate of registration will include details of the applicant, the address of the dog breeding establishment, the maximum number of bitches over six months that may be kept and any conditions attached to the registration.


An adequate number of staff should be available to cater to the size of the establishment and the number of dogs being kept. Staff must comply with dog welfare legislation and must have experience in handling dogs. Formal training in animal care is encouraged. Staff should be competent and be aware of their responsibilities.

Animal Care

Grooming must be to at least a minimum standard of care required for a dog’s breed. Coats should not be left unduly dirty, tangled or unkempt. Dogs should be protected from distress, injury, and excessive or rough handling. They should be fed adequately and regularly to maintain good health as appropriate to their breed, with clean water available at all times.

Bedding should be appropriate and cleaned regularly, and all reasonable measures should be taken to prevent and control the spread of infectious disease. A suitable treatment and prevention programme to control endoparasites such as roundworms or tapeworms and ectoparasites (including fleas and lice) should be in place, along with a suitable vaccination programme advised by a veterinary practitioner. Dogs should be exercised appropriately.


Dog kennels, housing and exercise areas should be kept clean and maintained in a good state of repair. Faeces should be removed at least once daily. Kennels, housing and exercise areas should be cleaned and disinfected before new dogs or puppies are introduced or after an outbreak of infectious disease. A suitable vermin control programme should be in place.

Health Checks

Each dog should be checked at least once a day to monitor its health and well-being, and more frequently in the case of whelping bitches. The check should cover general health, and any change in the health status of any dog should be reported promptly to the person in charge. Veterinary attention should be obtained promptly if needed. Any dog known or suspected to be suffering from an infectious disease should not be admitted to the premises or else placed in suitable isolation.

The operator of the premises should be a client of a veterinary practice. Veterinary attention must be obtained immediately in cases of suspected exotic diseases such as rabies.

Records and Identification

Anyone operating a Dog Breeding Establishment should establish and maintain a system to record the details of births, deaths, sale, movement or other event relating to the dogs kept within the establishment. The records must include all microchip details, dates of whelping of each bitch, the number of pups in each litter (including the number of live and dead pups), and details of their sale or disposal. The premises should also have a separate record of all bitches over six months of age and capable of breeding.

At present all dogs over 12 weeks of age on the premises must be micro-chipped and the details recorded on a suitable database. This will apply to all dogs over eight weeks of age from January 2013, and all dogs must be micro-chipped prior to being moved out of the premises. Records of all micro-chipped dogs must be recorded in a register maintained on site that must be available for inspection by an authorised officer.

These microchipping regulations do not apply to a registered hunt or game club member where the dogs are registered in a register maintained by the Hunting Association of Ireland or the Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the European Union. However, the register held by these clubs must contain the following details:

  • A reproduction of the mark imprinted on the skin or coat of the dog to enable its identification
  • The name of the owner of the dog and the address at which he or she resides
  • The address of the dog breeding establishment at which the dog is kept
  • The date of birth and sex of the dog
  • The dog’s colouring and any particular feature or features that distinguish the dog.
  • A dog breeding establishment’s operator must inform the local authority of of any sale or transfer of a dog.

Inspecting an Establishment

The local authority can order inspections of a dog breeding establishment at all reasonable times. Routine inspections will be by arrangement. Premises that fail to match the standards set out under law can be issued with a Fixed Payment Notice, an Improvement Notice or a closure notice in extreme cases.

Failings of the New Guidelines for Dog Breeding Establishment Act

  1. Only one staff member per 25 breeding bitches (and their pups) 
  2. Only two 30-minute exercise periods per day (note: this is not defined in the guidelines as a ‘walk’, it is merely 30 minutes outside the cage).

‘An adequate number of personnel must be available, appropriate to the size of the establishment and the number of dogs being kept. It is recommended that this will be equivalent to one fulltime equivalent per 25 breeding bitches. A documented workforce plan must be in place outlining how the Dog Breeding Establishment is staffed. In assessing the appropriate ratio for individual establishments, the workforce plan, the risk assessment of the premises, previous compliance history and the overall standard of animal care will be considered.

‘A Dog Breeding Establishment must have a suitable written exercise and socialisation programme in place in order to:  allow dogs to urinate and defecate outside their kennels allow dogs to socialise and play with humans and, if appropriate, with other dogs  provide for on leash walks, in order to promote socialisation and contact with humans and other dogs allow dogs to be checked over allow dogs to exercise appropriately to suit their physical, behavioural and social requirements. 8 4.2 A plan (to scale) of the breeding establishment, to include an exercise yard or area, must be submitted to the local authority. The exercise area must have enrichment opportunities to allow the dog to engage in natural behaviours like sniffing, digging, searching, etc. Dogs must be provided with a minimum of 2 exercise periods daily, each of at least 30 minutes duration.’

  1. The Department of Rural and Community Development is currently identifying any legislative changes required to bring the new guidelines into force. (This means that 18 months later these recommended improvements to the welfare standards at puppy farms, inadequate though they may be, are not in place. When they do come in to being they will not be legislative and therefore still not enforceable).

You can read the guidelines here:

Click to access 171218130933-7647c244982e4d9fb6487e04af77f651.pdf

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