Animal welfare campaigners have welcomed a new law aimed at cracking down on so-called puppy farms run by unscrupulous breeders and dealers.
The legislation, known as Lucy’s Law, will ban the sale of puppies and kittens by a third parties and ensure that anyone buying or adopting one under six months old deals directly with the breeder or an animal rehoming centre, rather than a pet shop or commercial dealer.
The new rules, which are being laid in Parliament on Monday and need a debate in both houses to pass into law, would require animals to be born and reared in a safe environment, with their mother, and to be sold from their place of birth.
Named after Lucy, a cavalier king charles spaniel who died in 2016 after being poorly treated on a puppy farm, the ban is scheduled to come into force on April 6 next year, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said.
Bitches like Lucy are used by unscrupulous puppy farmers to produce litters which are separated from their mothers within weeks and either advertised online or sold to pet shops.
The ban, which will apply to England, is also designed to deter smugglers who abuse the Pet Travel Scheme to bring young animals into the UK to be sold.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “This is about giving our animals the best possible start in life and making sure that no other animal suffers the same fate as Lucy.
“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.”
Marc Abraham, Lucy’s Law campaigner and founder of Pup Aid, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that Lucy’s Law is now being laid in Parliament and will come into effect from April 2020.
“Lucy’s Law is named after one of the sweetest, bravest dogs I’ve ever known, and is a fitting tribute to all the victims of the cruel third party puppy trade, both past and present.”
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said he was “absolutely thrilled” with the legislation but it required enforcement, adding that 2018 was the “busiest year yet” with 4,397 complaints about the puppy trade in England alone.
He said: “We hope this ban, alongside the tougher licensing regulations that were introduced in October, will help to stamp out the underground trade that exploits these wonderful animals simply to make a quick buck.”
But Paula Boyden, veterinary director at Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, urged the Government to go further.
She said: “We’re pleased at today’s news that a ban on third party sales is to be introduced in England.
“We would like to see additional measures introduced to ensure the ban is as robust as possible.
“There is time before April 2020 for the Government to consider regulation of rehoming organisations and sanctuaries, ensure full traceability of all puppies sold, and strengthening of the pet travel scheme.
“We urge the Government to ensure the additional pieces of the puzzle in tackling the puppy trade are put in place as soon as possible to make the ban a success.”