Pet shops and dealers in England are to be banned from selling puppies and kittens under new legislation known as Lucy’s Law which aims to end so-called puppy farming.
The plans, which have gone out to consultation, will mean those wanting to buy or adopt a pet younger than six months old will have to go to the breeder or a rescue centre.
It follows a ban on licensed sellers dealing in dogs and cats younger than eight weeks old, which comes into effect on 1 October.
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Named after a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was badly treated in the puppy farming system, Lucy’s Law “aims to reduce the health problems which emerge when animals are reared in poor conditions” says the BBC.
There have also been calls for similar legislation to be adopted in Wales and Northern Ireland, while Scotland introduced its own members bill to end puppy farming in May.
In a speech at Downing Street, Environment Secretary Michael Gove heaped praise on the campaign that highlighted how some sellers rely on puppies supplied by callous commercial breeders who raise animals in horrendous conditions.
He also name-checked the Daily Mirror newspaper, which has been a strong supporter of the ban.
As part of its animal welfare reform programme, the government is also bringing in higher maximum sentences of up to five years for animal abusers, “the toughest sentencing in Europe”, says the Nottinghamshire Post.
Animal charity Blue Cross estimates that between 40,000 and 80,000 puppies were sold via third parties in Britain last year, despite fewer than 100 licensed third-party sellers currently operating in England.
Chris Wainwright, deputy chief executive of the RSPCA, told BBC News that a ban was “overdue” and said he hoped it would raise welfare standards.
“We've had this explosion in this market with loads of rogue traders, lots of rogue dealers and it's meant the public are often unsuspecting. They think they're buying from a reputable breeder, actually they're buying from a middle person,” he said. “It means the 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 and the tragedy of that occurs.”
However, while welcoming the ban, Paula Boyden, from the Dogs Trust, also warned “potential loopholes” needed to be closed off for the ban to be successful. She said there should be additional measures, including regulating re-homing organisations.
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