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Do You Need a License to Breed Dogs?

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 14, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog breeder with puppies

Do You Need a License to Breed Dogs?

Breeding is a hot topic among dog lovers everywhere, especially backyard breeding. Pet parents want to be sure the dogs they’re purchasing are bred with ethical practices. Some people advertise themselves as being licensed for dog breeding, but do they have to be certified? 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 legal in all 50 states. However, the laws have been historically lax, leading to overbreeding, animal cruelty, and puppy mills. These problems have convinced some lawmakers to tighten the reins on dog breeding. One proposed method of handling the issue was to set up a licensing or permit system.

Australian cattle dog sold by breeder to new owner
Image Credit: kukurund, Shutterstock

Do I Need a Permit to Breed Dogs?

Currently, 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 dogs at once. Anyone whose dog produces puppies, even just one, is considered a dog breeder by law.

The practice of breeding dogs differs from being a commercial dog breeder or one who does so for business. You must apply for a commercial license when you become a commercial breeder. 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 area before breeding. Rules like whether dogs can be on their property, how many dogs can be on the property at once, and how to register breeding stock and puppies will be essential to your business’s legality.

You’ll also need a business permit to breed dogs professionally. This 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 since they are legally required to run a dog breeding business.

breeder carrying siberian husky puppies
Image Credit: David Tadevosian, Shutterstock

AKC Recognition

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

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

  • Have a history of at least 5 years of involvement with AKC events
  • Have earned AKC Conformation, Performance, or Companion event titles on a minimum of four dogs from AKC litters that 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. Even if you only have one litter and sell the puppies for a low price, ensuring that the income is declared correctly is essential. If not reported, the IRS may audit and penalize you for tax evasion.

Pregnant Terrier Mix
Image By: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

Unsafe or Unethical Breeding Practices

Some unsafe and unethical breeding practices are already criminal under animal neglect laws. If you suspect that a breeder 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 they can’t properly be cared for, and inbreeding dogs.

Dogs are living beings, and although they’re legally considered property, it is illegal to treat them poorly. Aspiring breeders should consider what they can do to make their kennels 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 without dog breeders, there would be no dogs. We need to balance criticizing unsafe breeding practices and recognizing responsible breeders who are doing their due diligence to ensure that their dogs are in good health.

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

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Iuliia Bondarenko, Shutterstock

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