On Monday Parliament is set to discuss new legislation, known as ‘Lucy’s Law’, to deter puppies and kittens being bred in poor conditions and separated from their mothers too early. The law is coming in following a public consultation which found that there was over 95% support for the ban.
Why ‘Lucy’s Law’?
The law is named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel who suffered multiple health conditions including a curved spine, bald patches, epilepsy and fused hips. She spent most of her life kept in a cage and used to breed litters of puppies at a Welsh puppy farm. In 2013, at five years old, Lucy was rescued and went on to live a new life with rescuer Lisa Garner, who took to social media to spread the word about the conditions breeding dogs are kept in, gaining support from celebrities, vets, animal charities and the public alike and gaining tens of thousands of followers. Lucy was able to spend the last three years of her life in a happy, loving home, but there were others like Lucy still living in terrible conditions. In tribute to her memory the Lucy’s Law campaign was launched so that other dogs and cats could avoid the same horrific life.
What does the legislation mean?
Lucy's Law means that cats and dogs under six months old will only be able to be sold by breeders. Third-party sellers, such as pet shops and commercial dealers, will not be able to sell young animals unless they have bred them themselves. It is hoped the legislation will help stamp out puppy and kitten farms.
Lucy’s Law is designed to target the large commercial breeders who often have warehouses, outbuildings and caravans filled with dogs in dirty conditions and being bred on a large scale. It also aims to reduce the risk of young animals being separated from their mothers too early.
You will still be able to adopt animals from rehoming charities, but there is an ongoing conversation on whether rescue and rehoming centres will require a licence.
Considering buying a puppy? Read our checklist first, or find out about the benefits of adopting
When will it happen?
Lucy’s Law will come into force in England on April 6 2020. The delay is to give the pet industry time to adapt to the changes.
What about the rest of the UK?
Currently Lucy’s Law is only set to be implemented in England, and as animal welfare issues are a devolved matter the individual governments of the UK will need to come to their own decisions.
The Welsh Assembly are currently consulting on the issue. A ban in Wales would be tremendous news for puppies as Wales has the largest concentration of commercial puppy breeders in the UK. Wales’ Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths says “The vast majority of those buying a new puppy or kitten do so with the best of intentions. However, it is not always immediately apparent to the buyer where their new pet originated, or in what conditions it was raised. This consultation is an opportunity to gather as much information as possible to enable us to make lasting improvements to the welfare of puppies and kittens bred in Wales."
In Scotland anyone breeding five or more litters per year must have a licence, but there is a widespread problem of puppies being brought in illegally to meet the demand for fashionable breeds such as French bulldogs, Chihuahuas and pugs. “There are only a small amount of French bulldog breeders in Scotland, for example, and if you phone them up there will be wait of 24 months. They have already sold the next three litters because they are reputable and you know you are getting a high standard. When people get that information, they will go on the internet and think ‘I can get a French bulldog next week’. But it’s people buying misery,” SSPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn told the Sunday Post.
Last September Scotland started a consultation on further regulating the breeding of dogs, cats and rabbits, and this year SNP MSP Christine Grahame launched a members’ bill to end puppy farming and hopes it will be law by 2020.
There is widespread support for the legislation in Northern Ireland, with many councillors calling for a similar ban, although this won’t be able to happen until the Northern Ireland Assembly suspension comes to an end.
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