Key Reforms to Dog Breeding in Ireland | Fieldfisher
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Key Reforms to Dog Breeding in Ireland



Read the full paper here.


Ireland is in the midst of a dog crisis. In August 2023, the Department of Rural and Community Development released statistics for 2022 which showed that 7,352 dogs entered Irish pounds, a 77% increase from 2021. Moreover, 340 dogs were euthanised in Irish pounds, twice as many as 2021. In 2023, Dogs Trust also recorded the highest number of surrender requests (3,968) since it opened its doors in 2009. The number of dogs rescued by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) also rose by 47% last year when compared to 2022. 

Hannah Unger (Associate), Rory Ferguson (Director) and Dearbhla Walsh (Solicitor) (the "Authors") have prepared this paper on a pro bono basis, having recognised the current crisis and have undertaken a comprehensive review of Irish legislation and international law / best practice to suggest practical, measured and effective reforms. 


Key Findings 

Dog breeders can be divided into three groups: 

  • Operators of dog breeding establishments (DBEs) – those who have six or more female dogs capable of breeding on their premises (colloquially referred to as 'puppy farms / puppy factories'). 
  • Registered sellers – those who sell or supply six or more pet animals (incl. dogs) in a calendar year but have five or less breeding bitches on their premises. 
  • Private individuals - sells or supplies five or less dogs in a single calendar year

Ireland's poor regulatory framework has created a multi-million-euro industry (estimated to be worth around €187 million) and has resulted in Ireland also becoming a huge exporter of puppies to more tightly regulated countries. 

Aside from welfare concerns, this industry presents a range of other issues such as:

  • tax avoidance, given the high-level of cash transactions; 
  • environmental concerns, due to the high-level of waste produced by hundreds of dogs on site; 
  • spread of diseases such as parvovirus, kennel cough, giardia, ringworm, leptosiriosis, etc; and
  • fraudulent practices, such as claiming that puppies were bred in a family home when they were bred in a puppy factory. 



The paper proposes a number of key changes, outlined below, which could drastically improve practices with regards to dog breeding in Ireland: 


  1. Strengthening existing legislation
  2. Consolidating policy generation and implementation in one government department
  3. Incentivising neutering 
  4. Banning surgical insemination / regulate canine fertility 
  5. Establishing an independent regulator
  6. Improving the microchipping system 
  7. Improving quality of data

A significant section of the paper is dedicated to improving legislation, of which there were three key pieces – the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 ("the 2010 Act"), the Animal Health and Welfare (Sale or Supply of Pet Regulations) 2019 (the "2019 Regulations") and S.I. No. 63/2015 - Microchipping of Dogs Regulations 2015 (the "2015 Regulations"). 

A number of reforms are suggested, both in relation to legislation and more broadly, including: 

  • Establishment of a more appropriate staff to dog ratio
  • Changes to the scope of 2010 Act to bring more breeders under its remit
  • Change in the age of breeding bitches
  • Reduction in the number of litters a breeding bitch can whelp and in what time period
  • Introduction of rules relating to caesarean sections 
  • Introduction of a cap on breeding bitches on site
  • Stricter, mandatory guidelines in relation to animal housing, hygiene, exercise, registration, personnel, animal care, socialisation, health checks, veterinary care etc.
  • Standardised and more detailed DBE license application forms
  • Mandatory publication of registers and inspection reports
  • Increased frequency of inspections
  • Increase of fines including for operating unregistered DBEs
  • Ban on surgical insemination and tight regulation of canine fertility
  • Increase in oversight of local authority activites and eventual establishment of an independent regulator 
  • Increased emphasis on health and welfare standards
  • Obligation for Local Authorities to issue closure notices and sieze dogs where a DBE poses a serious and immediate threat to public health or animal welfare
  • Mandatory training and qualification requirements
  • Evidence of tax compliance 
  • Establishment of a hotline to tackle unscrupulous back yard breeders 
  • Improvements to microchipping system
  • The establishment of a centralised online microchip database
  • Improvements to recording of data
  • Greater enforcement of the 2015 Regulations 
  • Amendments to the 2015 regulations to include Registered Sellers 



Dog breeding has morphed into a 'fast fashion' market, where any breed of puppy is readily available at the click of a button. Sadly, many consumers remain unaware of the ethical concerns embedded in this industry. 

The reforms outlined in the paper are designed to ensure that Ireland creates a regulatory framework that is well resourced, controlled and enhances the welfare of dogs. It is the authors' belief that all the reforms detailed are achievable, many in the short-term, however they also recognise that some may take a number of years to implement due to lack of funding and other factors.

Areas of Expertise

Public and Regulatory