New legislation regulates all HK dog breeding

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For many years, anyone claiming to be a private pet owner was free to sell his dogs and its offspring. Owners did not undergo any licensing or inspections; there were no limitations or requirements.

In 2011, the AFCD found that of more than 11,000 dogs being sold over 18 months, pet shops reported that 2% of their puppies came from licensed breeders. 22% were imported and 74% or over 8,000 dogs came from self-claimed private pet owners. 60% in Hong Kong’s biggest pet shops were knowingly getting all their dogs from only 1 or 2 “private pet owners”. These suppliers were clearly not private pet owners, these were commercial breeders.

The new legislation closes this loophole by requiring all breeders, even private pet owners, to be registered with the government, either through a license or a permit.


Phasing in period

The new legislation became effective as of 20th March 2017 and now applies to all license holders.

For more information, please visit the AFCD website.

If you would like to verify you are getting a dog from a genuine licensed breeder/ exempted organisation or individual, please contact the AFCD at 1823 or email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



  • All dog breeders need to be licensed to sell their dogs.
  • Legally required Code of Practice for all breeders with minimum care and welfare standards
  • All breeding premises are subject to inspection by the AFCD
  • Maximum penalty raised from $2,000 to $100,000
  • Traders convicted of animal cruelty offences can have licenses revoked

New requirements

  • Traders cannot sell dogs to a person under 16 years. Traders may ask for documentary proof of age.
  •  Any dogs promoted for sale must be accompanied by their microchip number. This should also be displayed on the cage of dogs for sale in pet shops
  •  The dog breeder’s license number must be displayed on any advertising.

License types

If you are buying from a pet shop

Animal Trader License (ATL)
  • Licensed to sell animals from the permitted sources below from a licensed premises. The license will also state the type of animals which they are permitted to sell

More information regarding ATL

If you are buying from a breeder or individual



Paperwork requirements

  1.  For dogs bred in Hong Kong, you will need a yellow duplicate of the Dog breeder’s Declaration endorsed by the AFCD. (sample)
  2. Vaccination certificate declaring the puppy has had 2 vaccinations against canine distemper, canine hepatitis, canine parvovirus and canine parainfluenza (DHPPi) from a registered veterinary surgeon
  3. Receipt with dog details, including its microchip number
  • The seller must scan the dog in your presence. The microchip number must match all the paperwork.

What to look out for

  • Dog should be at least 10 weeks old when offered for sale – they should have all their teeth
  • Signs of poor health
  • You are entitled to ask for an independent veterinary check
  • Checklist to identify a good breeder


Why did the SPCA support the three licences/one permit system?

A. We supported this proposal for two key reasons:

1. It closes the private-pet-dog-owner loophole.

2. It regulates all dog breeding for gain and all dog sales. 

Why does the SPCA support breeder licensing?

A. We believe that companion animals should be sourced from where they are born or from a reputable rehoming organisation. We would rather people visit dog breeders than pet shops if they are not going to help rehome an unwanted dog in need.

If dog keeping, dog breeding and sale of dogs are allowed then there should be proper legislation and measures in place to help regulate and monitor the trade as well as safeguard the welfare of the dogs.

We also believe that the trade should be more transparent with information on breeders and the dogs they breed freely available. Breeder licensing and related instruments will help with this. 

If the SPCA had some issues with the legislation, why did you support its introduction?

A. We have waited over 20 years for the government to finally start working on this issue. The loophole that handicapped the 2008 proposal has been closed but it has taken eight years to get to this stage with amended legislation about to be presented for approval. Failure to do this will be a lost opportunity and means that we revert to the status quo: large numbers of dogs being bred and traded will not be under any protective or regulatory mechanism.

No law is perfect and improvements can be made over time, especially if unforeseen problems occur. Additional conditions and codes of practice – the secondary legislative tools – really help to make a big difference to the daily lives of the animals being bred and traded. Once the amended legislation is in place for dogs, we can then use it as a base model from which to start looking at and improving the breeding and trade regulations in other species such as cats, which are similarly deficient.

Why does the SPCA support two types of breeder licence (ABLA and ABLB)?

A. The SPCA is against large-scale puppy farming/milling that can be carried out under licence type ABLB.

But we recognise that as there are already licensed breeders who have large numbers of breeding females, so we need to have a system that regulates larger-scale breeding but does not encourage it.

We prefer that should dog breeding be carried out it is done on a smaller scale in a loving home environment, i.e. a well-educated owner amply equipped in the area of dog welfare and breed planning who has the welfare interests of the breed and the individual at heart.

These dogs and their offspring should be part of the family and should receive individual attention – get walked and be played with.

This concept matches more with licence type ABLA – someone breeding from four or less female dogs in a home, free-range environment. We also advocate restricting the number of ABLB licences issued and the number of dogs that can be kept under each licence to avoid inadvertently allowing dog breeding developing into automated factory farming.

The Scottish SPCA recently discovered that large-scale puppy farms/mills were being developed – with automated feeding systems often used in intensive farming systems to reduce cost and human input.



Date of review: 16/12/2019

  • Animal Trader License (ATL)
  • If you are buying from a breeder
  • Exemptions for organisations and individuals carrying out rehoming activities
Animal Trader License (ATL)
  • Licensed to sell animals from permitted sources from a licensed premises.  The license will also state the type of animals which they are permitted to sell
Dog Breeding License A (DBLA)
  • Anyone who keeps four dogs or fewer entire female dogs in their licensed premises (usually their home) and sells their female dogs or their offspring
Dog Breeding License B (DBLB)
  • Anyone who keeps five or more entire female dogs and sells these females or their offspring from a licensed premises
One-Off Permit
  • For any pet owner who sells an individual dog that he owns.
  • Dog has to be licensed under the owner’s name for at least four months.
  • A maximum of 2 permits will be issued to the same person in a 4 year period.

If you are considering adopting a dog, good for you!

Do note that organisations and individuals carrying out re-homing activities are also covered under this legislation.  They will be issued an exemption number under this legislation.


AFCD found that some sellers avoid animal trading legislation by offering animals for “adoption”  (instead of ‘sale’) on condition that buyers purchase pet food and other products, give a red packet or “donation” or other considerations in exchange (food, gifts etc)

The new legislation covers all transactions that involve a transfer of an animal, making such arrangements illegal.

This will affect genuine not-for-profit organisations and individuals that charge adoption fees or accept donations to cover the care, treatment and desexing when re-homing animals.

Thus, Animal Welfare Organisations, like the SPCA, need to be screened by the AFCD and apply for an exemption.

What to look for

[SPCA sample]

  • The exemption number needs to be listed on any promotional materials.
  • Animals promoted for adoption must have their microchip number displayed on the material.

For more information regarding exemption criteria: