The government is currently consulting on a proposal to ban pet shops and dealers in England from selling puppies and kittens under the age of 6 months.
The proposal is a victory for the Lucy’s Law campaign which was launched by TV vet Marc Abraham after a King Charles Cavalier named Lucy died of ill health caused by being used for breeding and kept in a cramped cage for 5 years.
The new regulations are part of the government’s commitment to promoting better animal welfare.
Before the government has made a final decision on the proposal, however, an update to the Animal Welfare Act (2006) will come into force on 1 October and ban pet shops and dealers from selling puppies and kittens under the age of 8 weeks.
“A ban on third-party sales will ensure the nation’s much-loved pets get the right start in life,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
The amendments to the act will impose tighter licensing regulations for both breeders and third-party sellers.
Furthermore, if the new law, popularly known as “Lucy’s Law”, gets passed, commercial sellers would be further prohibited from dealing puppies and kittens under the age of 6 months unless they were bred by them.
Why is the ban proposed?
Charities and animal rights groups have expressed concerns that the current regulations are too loose and thus allow for breeders to keep animals in poor conditions and separate them from their mothers prematurely.
By proposing the ban and carrying out consultations the government is acting on the promise to improve animal welfare and showing their support for the Lucy’s Law Campaign.
The fact that puppies and kittens are available to buy from commercial sellers means that breeders’ practices are often overlooked: “breeders aren't getting the scrutiny on their premises because they're passing these dogs off to third parties and it often leaves families with sick animals," said the deputy chief executive of RSPCA Chris Wainright.
In the case of the King Charles Cavalier Lucy, the dog was kept in a dark cramped cage for 5 years and forced to deliver litter after litter. When she was found, Lucy was severely underweight, with a deformed spine and bald spots.
If third-party puppy sales had been illegal, there would have been a greater focus on regulating breeders and regular inspections of the breeder’s premises would have likely saved Lucy and many other dogs like her from the abuse they’re subjected to.
In addition, the transportation of a puppy or a kitten from a breeder to a commercial seller and then to a potential owner is feared to cause anxiety contributing to a lack of socialization, habituation and poor health.
What will the new law mean for pet owners?
The new regulations would mean that anyone wishing to get a kitten or a puppy would have to go directly to a breeder or a rescue centre.
The new rules are intended to ensure that puppies and kittens are healthy and have access to good living conditions. It will make it less likely that owners will buy ill pets, or pets below the legal age to be sold.
What rules will breeders and commercial pet sellers have to comply with?
Following 1 October, commercial pet sellers will not be allowed to sell pets under the age of 8 weeks. All licensed pet sellers and breeders advertising pets for sale will be required to share their license number and name the authority that issued it.
They’ll also have to share the animals’ age, country of residence and country of origin and display a picture of true likeness of the pet. Sales will have to be completed in person at the premises where the dog has been kept thus banning online sales altogether.
Puppies will have to be shown in the presence of their mothers and online purchases would be a breach of the regulations.
Campaigners also hope that the inability to walk into a pet shop and buy a puppy or a kitten would discourage impulse buys around Christmas.