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Do You Need a License to Breed Dogs?

Nicole Cosgrove

Breeding is a hot topic amongst dog lovers everywhere, backyard breeding especially. Dog lovers want to be sure that the dogs they’re purchasing are bred with ethical practices. Some people advertise themselves as being licensed for dog breeding, but is that a real thing? Is there an overarching body that governs dog breeders? The short answer is no. Anyone can breed dogs, and the practice is legal in the United States.


Dog Breeding as a Business

Dog breeding for profit is a practice that is legal in all 50 states. However, its laws have been historically lax, leading to overbreeding, animal cruelty, and puppy mills. These problems have led to lawmakers looking to tighten the reigns on dog breeding. One proposed method of handling the issue was through a licensing or permit system.

Irish terrier at dog show
Image Credit: LRuss, Pixabay

Do I Need a Permit to Breed Dogs?

As of now, most dog breeders do not need a permit. Permits are required in some states when a dog breeder goes over a certain number of litters per year or has a certain number of breeding bitches at once. Anyone whose dog produces puppies, even just one, is considered a dog breeder by law.

The practice of breeding dogs is different from being a commercial dog breeder or one who does so for business. When you become a commercial breeder, you have to apply for a commercial license. The regulations you must obey and the requirements you must meet before granting the permit vary from state to state.

Aspiring breeders will need to learn the laws and regulations of their particular area before breeding. Rules such as if you can have dogs on your property, how many dogs you can have at once, and how to register your breeding stock and puppies will be essential to your business’ legality.

You’ll also need a business permit if you’re planning to breed dogs professionally. This permit ensures that your business follows all your state’s laws and regulations for how to run a business.

People breeding commercially cannot forego either permit as they are both legally required to run a dog breeding business.

AKC Recognition

American Kennel Club Box Weave Design Bolster Cat & Dog Bed

The American Kennel Club also acts as an independent governing body for dog breeders. The AKC Breeder of Merit program allows breeders to register and qualify for AKC recognition and rewards breeders who go above and beyond for the safety of their dogs.

Those looking to become an AKC Breeder of Merit must have the following to qualify:

  • History of at least five years of involvement with AKC events.
  • Earned AKC Conformation, Performance, or Companion event titles on a minimum of four dogs from AKC litters they bred or co-bred.
  • Be a member of an AKC club.
  • Certify that applicable health screens are performed on your breeding stock as recommended by the Parent Club.
  • Demonstrate that 100% of the puppies produced are individually AKC registered.

Attaining this certification helps you sell your dogs and assures those purchasing dogs from you that your dogs are well taken care of.

Remember to Do Your Taxes

Dog breeders must remember that every dollar generated from dog breeding, even if breeding is only practiced as a hobby, is taxable income that will have to be declared eventually. Even if you only have one litter and sell them for a low price, it’s essential to ensure that the income is declared correctly. If not reported, you may be audited and penalized by the IRS for tax evasion.

Pregnant Terrier Mix
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

Unsafe or Unethical Breeding Practices

Some unsafe and unethical breeding practices are already criminal under animal neglect laws. If you know of a breeder you suspect is neglecting or abusing their animals, report it to the authorities or animal control to remove the dogs from their care.

Unethical breeding practices include but are not limited to: having too many dogs on a small property, unsafe kenneling, having so many dogs that you can’t properly care for them, and inbreeding dogs.

Dogs are living beings and, though they’re legally considered property, it is illegal to treat them poorly. Aspiring breeders should think about what they can do to make their kennel and property safe for their dogs. Intact males and females are at higher risk of aggression and could threaten each other if handled unsafely.


Dog breeding can be a touchy subject for dog lovers, but the truth is that with no dog breeders, there would be no dogs. We need to balance between criticizing unsafe breeding practices and villainizing responsible breeders who are doing their due diligence to ensure that their dogs are in good health.

When beginning their journeys, aspiring breeders should look to the AKC Breeder of Merit program as the absolute minimum standard of dog breeding, rather than a gold standard.

Featured Image Credit: Jan Dix, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.