Getting a new puppy

How to check whether you’re buying from a legitimate, licensed breeder

Joann Bennett, Veterinary Surgeon from Bridge Vet Centre and My Family Pet, explains how to check whether you’re buying from a legitimate, licensed breeder


I’m assuming that as loyal and devoted dog lovers, you’ve all heard of Lucy’s Law? Well if you haven’t, it’s a pretty big deal, and an exciting deal for those who care about the welfare of puppies.

Lucy’s Law declares that as of spring 2020, only breeders will be legally allowed to sell puppies. This means it’ll be illegal to buy a puppy from a third party or a puppy farmer. In the meantime, of course, the backstreet puppy industry will undoubtedly continue.

Here are some things to look for when trying to figure out exactly who you’re buying a puppy from:


First off, a licensed breeder will happily let you visit their house – the house where the puppies were born. They’ll allow you to visit more than once because this usually means you’re interested in your future pup, and that you’re taking care when making your decision.

The puppies’ living conditions will tell you a lot about the breeder:

  • Are the puppies kept somewhere safe and comfortable?
  • Do they have a suitable amount of space?
  • Is their mother around and are they feeding from her?

An illegal puppy trader will be reluctant to show you the puppy’s home. They might set up a pretend home to try to trick you, but you can get around this from prior planning, and by visiting the puppy more than once.

Top tip: aim to visit the puppy for the first time when they’re 3-4 weeks old, then for a second time when they’re 8-9 weeks old.

Regular contact

If a breeder is concerned about the welfare of their pups and their future home, they’re more than likely legitimate. One sure-fire way of spotting a concerned, caring breeder is to contact them and ask for regular pupdates.

  • Do they gladly send you photos?
  • Are they happy to send you proof of vaccinations, parasite treatments and the puppy’s microchip implant?
  • Do they answer your questions? As a prospective dog owner, especially if it’s your first ever dog, you’ll naturally have lots of questions about your future companion. Good breeders will expect this and will respond well to your needs.
  • Are they just in it for the money? You’ll be able to tell, particularly if a breeder attempts to force you into a spontaneous purchase.

Make sure you never…

Never buy a puppy out of the blue. If you encounter a puppy that’s been reared in a horrid way, you’ll naturally want to take it home and care for it properly, offering them the life they deserve. Sadly, if you buy from someone who’d do that to a puppy, you’re likely buying from a puppy farmer and in doing so, you’re inadvertently supporting the illegal puppy trade and enabling it to continue.

As hard as it is, you should aim to never make a spontaneous purchase when it comes to a puppy. Also, avoid buying them from parks or laybys – this is just a sign that the seller doesn’t want you in their house, which is never good news!

If you need more advice…

I always recommend having a look at the Puppy Contract. This is a fantastic resource and was put together by all the major organisations associated with puppies’ welfare, including The Kennel Club, the Animal Welfare Foundation and the RSPCA.

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