Starting a cat or dog breeding business
- Henk Herkink
- 4 Nov 2021
- Edited 22 Nov 2022
- 10 min
Dogs and cats are more popular than ever. Do you love dogs and cats, and would you like to make money breeding these companion animals? Read this section to find out what breeding, and trading in, dogs or cats involves.
- Growing market
- Hobby or business
- Rules business breeding
- Importing dogs and cats
- Transporting dogs and cats
- Liability as a breeder
- Market research
- Financial plan
- New owner
- General starter information
1 in 5 households in the Netherlands has 1 or more dogs, while a quarter of households has at least 1 cat. In 2019, the Netherlands was home to (in Dutch) 1.7 million dogs and 2.9 million cats. Demand for puppies, in particular, increased during the COVID-19 pandemic (in Dutch).
Regardless of the type of business you are starting, you will always need to make decisions such as choosing a business name, setting up your accounts, taking out insurance, paying taxes, and registering your business with KVK. This article outlines a number of issues which are of specific interest to dog breeders or traders.
As a dog or cat breeder, you will find yourself operating in a growing market. Such a growing market also attracts faulty breeders who breed and keep their animals in bad conditions. Your success depends on an impeccable reputation. You should comply with the rules for the accommodation and care of animals, transport, admin, vaccinations, and the maximum number of litters per period. This is in the interest of both the animals and your business. You will also need to put the minds of critical customers at ease – and give prospective owners a realistic idea of the responsibilities involved in owning and caring for a pet.
Number of dog and cat breeders in the Netherlands (2017-2022)
The number of dog and cat breeders in the Netherlands has increased by 45% since 2017.
Year (on 1 Jan.)
If you are a cat lover or dog lover, it is a wonderful experience to raise a litter of puppies or kittens. Either as offspring of your pet or to help maintain the breed. Having your dog or cat mate and caring for puppies and kittens takes time, effort, and money. Your earnings from a litter may only just about cover your expenses. If your dog or cat has a litter only once, you cannot be considered to run a breeding business.
But if you have litters regularly and your intention is to make a profit from them, you will be classified as a business owner. The Dutch Animal Husbandry Decree (Besluit houders , in Dutch) contains a number of rules for breeding animals. Under this Decree, you can be considered to run a commercial breeding business if you sell, deliver, or breed more than 20 dogs or cats a year.
- You intend to make a profit
- You sell puppies or kittens on a regular basis
- You breed and trade animals at your own risk and expense
- You promote your business through advertising, a website, and/or other channels
As a professional cat or dog breeder, you are required to comply with certain rules and conditions. These rules are related, for example, to the registration of the animals, care for the animals, and training requirements for you as a breeder. The number-one priority should be the health and wellbeing of the animals. The following requirements apply:
Animal Husbandry Decree
Article 3.4 of the Dutch Animal Husbandry Decree (Besluit houders van dieren) contains rules for breeding companion animals such as dogs and cats. These rules are designed to prevent disease or serious hereditary disorders of the animal’s appearance or behaviour. There is also a cap on the number of litters you can have within a specific period. For dogs, this is 1 litter per 12 months, while cats can have 2 litters over a 12-month period and a maximum of 3 during a 24-month period. In addition, the Decree also sets requirements for the accommodation of animals.
The site where you keep dogs and cats for commercial purposes requires a Unique Business Number, UBN. You can request this from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). The number is intended to have a map of animal residences so that the government can act quickly in the event of an animal disease crisis. The local authority in the city or town where you intend to be based may set certain requirements for your location, for example, an environmental permit or requirements regarding the zoning plan.
When applying for your UBN and animal location with the RVO you must list the name of a manager. That is the person responsible for the day-to-day running of the business. As a manager, you must be in possession of proof of competence. This demonstrates that you have the knowledge and expertise required to handle and care for dogs or cats. You will receive this proof after completing a training course or programme listed in the centraal register beroepsopleidingen (Crebo, in Dutch) of the Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO).
Kennel name for dogs
A kennel name is a type of first name or last name used to identify a dog and its breeder. Note that this name differs from your business name.
If you are looking to join a professional association for a specific breed or if you intend to breed purebreds, you can choose a kennel name. This complies with the criteria of the Management board for Responsible Breeding (Raad van Beheer voor verantwoord fokken) and means that your dogs will have an identifiable kennel name. You can start using a kennel name once you have registered with the Management board.
Some local authorities in the Netherlands impose a dog tax (in Dutch) on dog owners. For the number of dogs, a dog kennel is generally classified under a lower rate for municipal dog tax. Contact your local authority to check whether a kennel name from the Management board is required for the lower rate.
EU Pet Passport
It is compulsory in the Netherlands to have dogs microchipped within 7 weeks of their birth. A microchip is also required if you intend to transport cats across the border. You can have your animals microchipped by a veterinarian or trained, approved person. All dogs must be in possession of a European Pet Passport, which specifies the dog’s origin, the name of the breeder, and the vaccinations the dog has received.
You can apply for the passport from any vet.
To meet the demand for dogs and cats in the Netherlands, you also have the option to import puppies and kittens from abroad. If you are importing dogs and cats, you require a trade registration from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA, in Dutch). In addition, you are required to maintain and update a database containing the destinations from and to which you source your animals. Dogs or cats from outside the Netherlands who have not been microchipped or received a rabies vaccine are barred from entering the Netherlands.
To transport dogs and cats, you sometimes require a permit. This depends on the distance you are travelling and the duration of your journey. You do not need a permit for distances up to 65 kilometres. If you intend to use a vehicle to transport dogs or cars for more than 8 consecutive hours, you require a Vervoer Levende Dieren (Life Animal Transport, VLD) certificate.
You can apply for permits to transport live animals from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA, in Dutch). The Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer (Netherlands Vehicle Authority, in Dutch) will inspect the vehicles.
The sale of dogs and cats is subject to consumer law. As an expert, you are expected to know which breeds are prone to which diseases. Have the parent animals tested for any hereditary diseases and make sure their offspring get their first shots. If a puppy or kitten turns out to have an underlying sickness of which you, as a breeder, should have been aware, the buyer may hold you liable.
You are not permitted to include any exclusion clauses in your sales contract. Any provisions stating that you are not responsible in the case of any genetic conditions or specifying a maximum amount in compensation for damages will not be valid. You can also include a provision in the sales contract stating that the buyer must first offer the puppy or kitten back to you if they change their mind.
In order to avoid any problems, it is recommended that you take out liability insurance. The insurance company will assess your sales contract or terms of supply for legal accuracy.
Sales of dogs and cats are subject to the regular VAT rate of 21%. This means you charge your clients 21% VAT on the sales price of a puppy or kitten. Once every quarter you must transfer the VAT amount, minus the VAT you pay on sales and purchases, to the Dutch Tax Administration. Tip: download the VAT Alert app (in Dutch) offered by the Dutch Tax Administration to remind you when to file VAT returns.
If your revenue is less than €20,000, you may qualify for the Small Business Scheme, KOR. This will exempt you from VAT, and you will not be required to charge VAT to your clients. In this case, you will also not be able to reclaim VAT and will not file any VAT returns. This arrangement may generate additional profits if you add an amount to the sales price in the amount of the VAT payable. You can check if the Small Business Scheme suits your purposes, based on these Frequently Asked Questions about the Small Business Scheme, or this video (For English subtitles, click the settings wheel, click ondertiteling and select English) which explains the scheme in 7 steps.
The profits from your dog or cat breeding business are subject to income tax.
Writing a business plan is a good preparation for launching your business. Part of writing a business plan is conducting market research into various areas. To find out if your plans have potential and to ensure that you will be able to advertise your breeding business, you must ask yourself questions such as:
- How many dogs or cats of the breed I am looking to breed are there in the Netherlands?
- Is there a demand in the Netherlands for the breed I am interested in breeding?
- What professional breeder associations are there for this breed?
- Who are my direct competitors who work with the same breed?
- What sort of prices are my competitors charging?
- What about the supply of dogs or cats? Through waiting lists at associations or through advertising websites?
In order to answer these questions, you will collect information from, for example, trade association Dibevo (in Dutch). Another good source is the website of the Raad van Beheer (in Dutch) which contains a list of all breeding associations for specific dog breeds, plus their websites.
Once you have identified the features of the specific market, you must draft a marketing plan. How do you intend to approach potential dog or cat owners? Example:
- through an advert on your own website or other sites
- through an advert in the association magazine for the breed in question
- by promoting your business in Facebook groups
- by posting on animal/pet forums
Market research will provide you with information on sales prices in the market, based on which you can then determine sales prices for your animals. If you know how many animals you can sell during a specific time, you can estimate your revenue. You must then multiply this revenue by all business expenses, including animal food, insurance, or the services of an accountant. This helps you assess whether your business can become profitable.
As a commercial breeder, your objective is obviously to make a profit. Whether you generate profits depends on a variety of factors, such as the investments you make to be able to open your business, your revenue, and the expenses you incur in your business.
Before you start as a commercial breeder, it is good to estimate your minimal income, and whether this income is feasible. Earning a full income from your breeding business means you will need to sell a lot of litters. Work out the numbers in a financial plan, so you can estimate whether your business plans are profitable. You should take into account any risks to which your animals might be exposed, such as the death of a mother animal or a pup or kitten.
If you start a breeding business out of love for animals, you obviously want your animals to end up in good homes. As a dedicated breeder, you will be able to tell the new owner everything they need to know about the early life stages, parents, and features of the young animal. However, you can also demand that future owners meet certain requirements. For example, membership in a breeders’ association, an extensive initial interview prior to the sale, and requirements for the buyer’s family situation or living situation. You may also need to put buyers on a waiting list if you do not have enough young animals available or if you are still waiting for a litter. You can choose to include a clause forbidding the buyer to sell the animals on to third parties, so you can be certain where your pups or kittens will end up. Make sure your client is aware of the terms and conditions in advance.
In addition to the above, new business owners must also deal with issues which generally apply to new business owners, including:
- administrative records
- a business name
- choosing a legal form
- Registering with the Chamber of Commerce
Tip: if there are any words on this page that you did not quite understand, check out this glossary (in Dutch) for a simple explanation of difficult words such as ‘terms of supply’, ‘revenue’, and ‘income tax’.
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