Today (Monday) the Government has introduced landmark new legislation aimed at tackling the low-welfare, high-volume supply of puppies and kittens by banning their commercial third-party sale in England.
It has also committed to supporting tougher sentences for animal cruelty and has pledged to bring in new laws on animal sentience and to end excessively long journeys for live animals.
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 businesses sell 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. Puppy farms are located around the UK, with most depending on third-party sellers or ‘dealers’ to distribute often sick, traumatised, unsocialised puppies that have been taken away from their mother at just a few weeks old.
This often involves long-distance transportation, with the puppy or kitten suffering life-threatening medical, surgical, or behavioural problems which are passed on to unsuspecting new owners. Lucy’s Law effectively removes the third-party dealer chain, resulting in all dog and cat breeders becoming accountable for the first time.
As well as Lucy’s Law, the Government has committed to raising maximum prison sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years.
Animal welfare minister Lord Goldsmith said: “Today is a significant milestone for animal welfare, and a major step towards ending cruel puppy farming and smuggling. After all the hard work of Marc Abraham and the Lucy’s Law campaign, I’m so pleased that we finally have this crucial legislation which will help tackle the heart-breaking third-party trade of dogs and cats.
“But we also need the public to do their bit to help by always asking to see puppies and kittens interacting with their mothers in their place of birth, looking out for the warning signs, and reporting any suspicious activity. By raising awareness of illegal sellers to the local authorities, we can all help to protect the nation’s cats and dogs and give them the best start in life.”
Lucy’s Law is the result of a 10-year grassroots campaign supported by prominent figures from showbusiness 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.
Last month, the Government launched the ‘Petfished’ campaign to highlight these conditions and the deceitful tactics some pet sellers use to trick buyers into thinking they are responsible breeders selling healthy animals. The campaign urges the public to look out for warning signs which suggest the seller could be an illegal third-party dealer such as litters without a mum present or being rushed through a sale.