Much has been made in the press in the last couple of days about the passing of the so-called “Lucy’s Law”, with headlines trumpeting that puppy farming has now been banned.
Except that it hasn’t.
As anti-puppy farming campaign C.A.R.I.A.D state, this latest legislation just has the potential to cut off part of the supply chain, because what it actually prohibits is the sale of puppies and kittens via third parties. The only sales that will now be legal are those made directly by the breeder, subject of course to other legislation such as licensing and the sale of animals at the permitted age.
All well and good but in many ways, it changes nothing, other than making it a fraction harder for puppy farmers and back street breeders to organise their supply chain.
- It is already illegal to import or sell puppies under 8 weeks old
- It is already illegal to important puppies that are not suitably vaccinated with the appropriate accompanying documentation
- It is already illegal to falsify paperwork, including PET passports, health records and pedigrees
- It is already illegal to sell puppies when they have not been seen with their mother
- It is already illegal to sell puppies without providing a socialisation plan
Puppies are still being imported in huge numbers, sold under age and/or with fraudulent or no paperwork, sold without a socialisation plan and sold when presented without their mother, either on their own, because the sellers claim that the bitch died or when they use a substitute bitch.
The percentage of owners that are aware of the existence of the AWA 2006, never mind their responsibilities under just this piece of legislation is small and has been decreasing since 2011.
Go out onto any street and count how many dogs are off lead alongside a road. Some of them wil have no collar either and, even if they have, it may not have a legal tag attached. Some will not be microchipped and of those that are, some will not have kept the database up to date. Many will be boarded in establishments without licences, many will have bought form breeders without licences.
All of this is illegal.
Very little is actually done about it though, because there are no resources made available to educate the public or to police the legislation.
Much of the legislation is confusing, even for professionals, and there is evidence to suggest that practitioners are not interpreting or implementing the legislation consistently.
Far too much is left to local authority discretion. DEFRA noted in <a href=”https://www.local.gov.uk/guidance-dog-control-and-welfare-police-and-local-authorities” target=”_blank”>a 2017 report</a> that “Reference was made to a lack of certainty in some areas over the split of responsibility between police and local authorities with respect to dog control issues. Varying degrees of enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 or engagement on dog control between local authorities was highlighted as an issue. Resourcing was identified as a challenge against a background of a high number of cases.”
Licence fees and fines vary widely, leaving both responsible practitioners and miscreants at the mercy of a post code lottery.
It is in this context that “Lucy’s Law” needs to be seen, because tragically, there are going to be very many more dogs that continue to suffer as Lucy did unless a radical shakeup is made of the welfare priorities for local and national government.
The Kennel Club need to actually dedicate themselves “to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs” by not continuing to register puppy-farmed dogs, expelling members such as Eric Hale, actually doing something radical to stop in-breeding (commissioning studies is all well and good but any idiot can tell the KC why so many German Shepherds can’t walk properly or brachycephalic dogs breathe) and the stop supporting the breeding of thousands of dogs with appalling conformations.
Puppy farming could be ended overnight without the need for legislation and the consequent expense of policing it because all it needs is for people to:
- Stop buying puppy-farmed dogs
- Stop taking in dogs because they pity them and thinking that they are rescuing them rather than leaving space for the next one
- Stop expecting to be able to buy dogs off-the-shelf
- Stop buying dogs from websites such as Pets4Homes and Gumtree
- Stop buying dogs from back street breeders
- Stop buying dogs from breeders without having checked and cross-checked their licensing status.