Lucy’s Law: What is it and how does it protect puppies and kittens?

New legislation will 'give animals the best possible start in life', says Michael Gove

Sarah Young
Thursday 04 June 2020 10:01 BST
The Independent tries out puppy yoga

Earlier this year, the government introduced landmark legislation called “Lucy’s Law” which aims to tackle the low-welfare, high volume supply of puppies and kittens, by requiring all pets are purchased from English breeders.

When the law was first laid out in parliament in May 2019, Michael Gove, the minister for the cabinet office, said it was about “giving our animals the best possible start in life”.

“It will put an end to the early separation of puppies and kittens from their mothers, as well as the terrible conditions in which some of these animals are bred.”

In June, the founder of Lucy's Law, vet Marc Abraham, called for an investigation into the premature death of a dog owned by two Love Island stars.

Molly Mae Hague and Tommy Fury revealed that their pomeranian puppy, called Mr Chai, died just days after he was flown in from Russia.

“The Government has made it quite clear that with Lucy's Law, you can't sell a puppy without it having been seen with its mum in the place where it is born,” Abraham told the Mirror.

“To have a puppy sold by an English breeder that's being imported from Russia without its mum is suspicious. It should be reported to the local authority and naturally this case should be investigated, and a full explanation should be given by the local council.”

Here is everything you need to know about Lucy’s Law.

What is Lucy’s Law?

The legislation cracks down on so-called puppy farms and requires animals to be born and reared in a safe environment, alongside their mother, and to be sold from their place of birth.

The rules, known as Lucy’s Law, were laid out in Parliament in May 2019 and officially came into force on 6 April 2020.

How does it protect puppies and kittens?

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.

It also means that 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.

Why was it introduced?

The law is named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy farm in Wales 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.

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.

What is the best way to get a puppy or kitten?

The RSPCA recommends that anyone looking to get a puppy or kitten should consider rescuing instead of buying.

However, for anyone intent on buying, the government has shared some tips on warning signs to look out for.

Before visiting:

  • 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.

When visiting:

  • 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.

How has the law been received?

Lucy’s Law has been welcomed by a number of animal welfare campaigners including Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, who said: “We’re incredibly pleased that the government is today introducing a ban on third-party sales of puppies and kittens. We believe that this, along with tougher licensing regulations that were introduced in 2018 and better education of the public on how to buy puppies responsibly, will help to crackdown on this cruel trade.

“We hope these laws will be properly enforced so that all dogs who are used for breeding and selling will live happy, healthy lives where their welfare is prioritised above profits.”

Marc Abraham, media vet, author, founder of Pup Aid and the Lucy’s Law campaign, added that he is “incredibly proud” to have led the 10-year campaign to ban cruel puppy and kitten dealers.

“I’d like to give a huge thanks to UK Government for passing this law, as well as every animal-loving parliamentarian, celebrity, welfare organisation, and member of the public that supported us,” Mr Abraham said.

“Lucy was an incredibly brave dog, and it’s right that her memory is honoured with such an important piece of legislation to help end puppy farm cruelty; protecting breeding dogs just like her, as well as cats, their young, and also unsuspecting animal-lovers from the dangers of irresponsible breeding and cruel puppy and kitten dealers.”

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