Last week the UK Government introduced landmark legislation that bans third party puppy and kitten sales in England. This has been introduced to drive up animal welfare standards and is designed to tackle the low-welfare, high volume supply.
The RSPCA say that over the last ten years their staff have dealt with almost 30,000 complaints relating to the illegal puppy trade. Their rescuers have saved dogs from unimaginable cruelty and hideous conditions; their vets have tried desperately to save the lives of tiny puppies riddled with worms and plagued by health and behaviour problems; and their carers have nursed dogs back to health, teaching them to trust people again, and showing them love for the first time.
They are the lucky ones that have survived.
So what does this mean?
“Lucy’s Law” means that anyone wanting to get a new puppy or kitten in England must now buy direct from a breeder, or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead. Licensed dog breeders are required to show puppies interacting with their mothers in their place of birth. If a business sells puppies or kittens without a licence, they could receive an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months.
The law is named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy farm where she was subjected to terrible conditions. Puppy farms are located across the UK with most depending on third-party sellers or ‘dealers’ to distribute often sick, traumatised, unsocialised puppies which have been taken away from their mother at just a few weeks old.
Lucy’s Law will hopefully bring an end to the awful conditions that have been regularly exposed in puppy farming. Welfare issues that needed changing included the separation of puppies from their mothers, their introduction to new and unfamiliar environments and the increased likelihood of multiple journeys they had to undertake. These horrendous conditions only contributed to a terrible start in life which lead to often serious health and anxiety issues. These issues would then be passed onto unsuspecting owners. Lucy’s Law now effectively removes the third-party dealer chain therefore resulting in all dog and cat breeders becoming accountable for the first time.
Lucy’s Law is the result of a 10-year grassroots campaign supported by prominent figures including Ricky Gervais, Brian May, Rachel Riley, and Peter Egan, and it will help disrupt the supply chain of unscrupulous breeders and dealers who breed dogs in shocking conditions, often kept imprisoned alone in the dark, with very little human or canine company.
Ensure pets get the right start in life
Environment Secretary Michael Gove, said:
A ban on third party sales will ensure the nation’s much loved pets get the right start in life. I pay a tribute to the Lucy’s Law campaign who have fought tirelessly for this step.
People who have a complete disregard for pet welfare will no longer be able to profit from this miserable trade.
The UK Government have issued the following advice:
When looking to buy a puppy or kitten you should look for these warning signs:
- Research. Have a look at the seller’s profile and search their name online. If they are advertising many litters from different breeds, then this is a red flag.
- Check contact details. Copy and paste the phone number into a search engine. If the number is being used on lots of different adverts, sites and dates then this is likely a deceitful seller.
- Check the animal’s age. Puppies and kittens should never be sold under 8 weeks old – do not buy from anyone advertising a puppy or kitten younger than 8 weeks.
- Check the animal’s health records. Make sure the seller shares all records of vaccinations, flea and worm treatment and microchipping with you before sale.
- Make sure the mum is present – if mum is not available to meet, it’s unlikely the puppy or kitten was bred there. Beware of the seller making excuses as to why mum is not there e.g. she’s at the vet’s, asleep, or out for a walk.
- Check there isn’t a ‘fake’ mum – most fake mums don’t interact with the puppies as they fear the real mum returning.
- Watch out for puppies or kittens labelled as ‘rescue’ but with much higher than expected price tags.
- If you feel rushed or pressurised into parting with cash, this is a red flag.
- Health problems observed at purchase are not normal and don’t be convinced otherwise.
- Beware of offers to meet somewhere convenient e.g. car park or motorway services, or ‘shop front’ premises, common with rented properties just to make sales, and ‘sales rooms’ kept separate from nearby or onsite puppy farm.
As you can see Lucy’s law is a welcome change to legislation that puts the animals first. The UK Government is committed to its animal welfare programme and is also bringing in higher maximum sentences of up to five years for animal abusers – the toughest sentencing in Europe.
Personally, I would like to see other European governments take this stance and upgrade their laws to reflect this.
Further information can be found at the following links. These also give you up to date news on how the Covid 19 pandemic is affecting animal welfare. Most rescue centres are closed due to this. Animal adoption or fostering is more difficult but please check these for further information.
All the best for now