The low-down on Lucy’s Law

Lucy’s Law came into effect 6th April 2020, following a petition against poor puppy farming conditions. We look at what this is and how it can affect UK dog and cat owners.

Following a petition by animal welfare campaigners, the English Government approved Lucy’s Law in the summer of 2019. The law came in to effect on 6th April 2020, so what do these new regulations mean for dog and cat owners?

What is Lucy's Law?

Lucy's Law is named after a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Lucy, who was rescued from a Welsh puppy farm in 2013. Her story is a sad one, as she’d spent the previous 5 years in a cage in which she could barely stand up, continuously breeding litters of puppies.

After she was rescued, a campaign was run in Lucy's name, focusing on the welfare of puppies and kittens when sold by third parties; dogs like Lucy are often forced to breed multiple times a year, with puppies and kittens being taken from their mothers at just a few weeks old and sold on to pet dealers and pet shops.

Prior to the law being approved, the Government sought the opinion of the public in a consultation that ran throughout the autumn of 2018. Almost 96% of those who responded were in favour of a ban being introduced to prevent pet dealers, pet shops and other retailers from selling puppies and kittens under 6 months old, unless they had bred them themselves

Lucy's Law was approved by Parliament on 13th May 2019 and came in to effect in England on 6th April 2020. The law makes it illegal to sell puppies and kittens under 6 months old unless the seller:

  1. has bred the puppy or kitten themselves, or
  2. isn't a business (e.g. if they're a legitimate rescue centre

How does this affect breeders?

On 1st October 2018, prior to Lucy’s Law, the law surrounding licensed breeders, pet dealers and pet shops was updated to prevent them from selling puppies under the age of 8 weeks old. They are also required to state their licence number and the local authority from which they received it when advertising.

When selling a litter of puppies, the mother must also be shown alongside the puppies, and sales must take place where the dogs are kept. This is to try to prevent animals from being separated from their mothers prematurely, before they’ve been socialised. Without proper socialisation in the first 8-10 weeks, puppies and kittens can miss out on experiences that help with their learning and development. This can cause them to have behavioural issues in to their adult life.

When Lucy’s Law came in to effect, the age from which pet dealers and pet shops could sell puppies and kittens increased to 6 months; the only exceptions are if the puppy or kitten was bred by the seller, or the puppies and kittens aren’t being sold in the course of a business.

It is hoped the ban will further promote animal welfare, ensuring that fewer animals are subjected to the kind of abuse that Lucy received. It also aims to crack down on the abuse of the EU Pet Travel Scheme, in which puppies are smuggled in to the UK to be sold on for financial gain

How does Lucy's Law affect pet buyers?

If you’re looking to introduce a new puppy or kitten aged under 6 months in to your home, legally you will only be able to buy the animal directly from the breeder or a genuine rescue. When purchasing a new puppy or kitten from a breeder, be sure to ask the following questions:

1. How old is the puppy/kitten?
When buying a puppy or kitten, it should be over 8 weeks old to ensure that it is physically and emotionally mature enough to leave its mother and litter siblings.

2. Has the puppy/kitten been bred at the premises?
If the puppy/kitten that you’re buying is under 6 months old, legally it must be bred at the premises from which the sale is being made.

3. Can I see the mother and the rest of the litter?
It’s important to see the mother and the rest of the litter to be sure that they were bred at the premises, as well as to check that they look healthy and happy. Watch how the puppy or kitten interacts with its mother and the rest of the litter as this also give you a clue about the animals personality and temperament.

4. Has the puppy/kitten been checked by a vet?
Don’t forget to ask about any vet visits that have taken place. Be sure to find out whether these were for routine health checks or due to signs of illness.

5. Has the litter been vaccinated and microchipped?
Puppies and kittens should receive their first vaccinations at around 8 weeks old. Be sure to get evidence of the puppy or kittens vaccinations. It is also a legal requirement for all dogs in the UK to be microchipped before they are 8 weeks old so ask for the puppy’s microchip registration details as you will need to transfer this into your own name. It is recommended that cats are also microchipped, but this is not a legal requirement.

6. What socialisation has the puppy/kitten had?
Puppies/kittens that have not had proper socialisation in the first few months of their lives may develop behavioural problems. It’s important that litters encounter adults, children, older dogs and cats and other animals, as well as experiences such as travelling by car, hearing loud noises and getting examined by the vet. This will help to build their confidence, enabling them to cope with new experiences in later life.

Alternatively, there are many pets looking for their forever homes in rescue centres and animal charities across the country. Check out our Rehome a Pet page to find your nearest animal charity.

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