Not Sure if You Should be Licensed by USDA? Here’s Some Help!

2020-05-15 | AKC Government Relations Department

Earlier this week, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published the finalization of the new Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations.  Here are some of the most important changes USDA has made: 

  • It has increased the length of time a license will be valid, from one year to three years.  At the end of a license’s three-year term, licensees will simply apply for a new license.  Doing away with the current renewal processes will help USDA APHIS become more efficient.  
  • USDA APHIS has set the license fee at a flat $120.  This amounts to $40 per year, which is the cost of the current least expensive AWA license USDA issues. 
  • Licensees must provide dogs with continuous access to potable water. 
  • Licensees must maintain an adequate program of veterinary care for regulated animals. 

USDA did not provide a specific definition of “breeding female” in the updated regulations. For the purposes of determining whether a breeder possesses the required number of breeding females on their premises to qualify for licensure, USDA continues to imply a female animal with the capacity to breed would be considered a “breeding female”. USDA inspectors may consider age, infirmity, illness, or other issues to exclude female animals from their count.  

AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) has provided an overview of USDA-APHIS’s new Animal Care Rules, which detail the rule changes impacting licensees.  It’s available at

Factors regarding which breeders must be licensed have not changed substantively. Most hobby breeders are not required to be licensed by USDA under the Animal Welfare Act regulations.  Generally, hobby breeders who sell dogs in face-to-face transactions are not subject to licensing. However, if you maintain more than four breeding females and sell the offspring “sight unseen”, you would be subject to USDA licensing.  In 2013, AKC GR created a flowchart to help people understand whether they would be subject to USDA licensure.  It may be viewed at

USDA also maintains an online Licensing and Registration Assistant to help you determine your license and registration needs under the AWA.  This anonymous self-service tool will ask you a series of questions and will recommend the specific license and/or registration types you may require, if any. Go to to access the tool. 

As always, AKC GR is available to help you.  Our Legislative Action Center is filled with resources available to help you be effective advocates for responsible dog ownership and breeding.  Check it out  Would like help by email?  Contact us at

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