On the 6th of April 2020, the Government introduced new legislation to improve the welfare of pets by banning the third-party sale of puppies and kittens in England.
This is known as Lucy's Law and it means that it's now illegal for commercial dealers to sell puppies and kittens unless they have bred the animals themselves.
Anyone wanting to get a new puppy or kitten in England must buy directly from a breeder or adopt 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.
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 horrific conditions. Lucy was re-homed to a loving owner in 2013, but unfortunately died in 2016.
A year later, TV Vet Marc Abraham launched the Lucy’s Law campaign as a tribute to Lucy and all dogs who have suffered having been reared in abusive and unsuitable environments.
One of the objectives of Lucy’s Law is to ensure that puppies and kittens are healthy and have access to good living conditions at the start of their lives. In effect, it also reduces the chance of pet owners buying puppies with serious health problems or who are too young to be sold legally.
Puppy farms have previously depended on third-party sellers or ‘dealers’ to distribute the puppies and kittens, but they were often sick, traumatised, and unsocialised after being taken away from their mothers at just a few weeks old.
Lucy's Law removes these third-party sellers and ensures that all dog breeders are responsible for the health and wellbeing of these animals.
The hope is that these requirements will encourage more responsible behaviour from sellers and buyers and discourage impulse buying of pets.
For anyone who wants to buy a puppy, the government has shared some tips and warning signs to look out for.
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 dog's health records
Make sure the seller shares all records of vaccinations, flea and worm treatment and microchipping with you before the sale.
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.
Also, 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. a car park or motorway services, or a ‘shop front’ premises (common with rented properties just to make sales) and ‘salesrooms’ kept separate from a nearby puppy farm.