Animal welfare organisations across England, as well as countless supporters, can finally celebrate a blow to the cruel business of puppy farming: today, 6 April 2020, Lucy’s Law comes into effect in England.
While the Covid-19 emergency prevents those who made it possible to properly reunite and celebrate, there will certainly be plenty of virtual hugs and pats on the back among campaigners for this amazing result. Announced in 2018, the legislation makes third-party puppy and kitten sales illegal – meaning that anyone seeking to purchase a puppy will need to buy directly from the breeder rather than going through a pet shop or a dealer.
This is a blow to the industry puppy farming, as it takes away the middle man they hide behind to sell their pups without the public being aware of the cruelty going on beind closed doors – which spells misery for the breeding dogs, and causes lifelong socialisation issues for the puppy or kitten as well as a number of preventable diseases. Lucy’s Law will also deter puppy smugglers who abuse the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) by bringing underage puppies into the UK which are then sold on for financial gain.
Of course, this doesn’t mean criminals won’t try to get around the ban; they are likely to rely more and more on people posing as a family who bred the puppies at home, or even try rebranding themselves as a rescue. The government is urging the public to keep in mind the warning signs to look out for through the Don’t Get Petfished awareness campaign.
Who was Lucy?
Lucy was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who spent more of her life in a puppy farm in Wales, confined in a cage and birthing litter after litter in until she could have no more pups. For most puppy farm breeding bitches, the end of fertility means death; Lucy was luckier, and got to spend the last years of her life in a loving home with Lisa Garner, becoming a poster girl for mistreated puppy farm dogs everywhere.
When Lisa first saw Lucy in 2013 on a rescue centre’s website, the little Cavalier was in a dreadful condition. She showed all the signs of having had litter after litter while living in cramped conditions, with no exercise or affection. Her coat was sparse, burned off by the urine she was forced to lie in every day; her back was dreadfully arched due to living in a confined space day after day, and she was severely underweight – weighing no more than 3.5 kilos, two less than the weight of a healthy Cavalier.
Upon learning that Lucy felt the cold and refused to go outside, Lisa, who owns a dog boutique, sent her a few jumpers. That could have been the end of her involvement, but she found that she couldn’t get that mistreated little dog out of her mind – and soon she
decided to adopt her.
As she worked to get Lucy out of her shell, Lisa felt that her story should be told, and turned to the internet to do so. It didn’t take long for Lucy to become a social media star, and her adorable pictures, along with updates about her daily life, helped raise awareness on the cruel industry of puppy farming.
TV Vet Marc Abraham, who had been fighting for the end of the industry for years, saw the opportunity to make little Lucy the face of the campaign demanding the end of third-party puppy sales, naming it Lucy’s Law. His idea proved to be a success, with one of the fastest-growing e-petition ever registered in the UK, but sadly Lucy wouldn’t live to see the result: after becoming poorly quite suddenly on 4 December 2016, she passed away four days later.
“Lucy’s passing is incredibly sad, and a great shame. She was in horrid shape when rescued and her body had been so damaged by the dreadful life she had to lead in the past, but she was such a brave dog and fought until the end,” Marc told Dogs Today when Lucy passed away.
“Many people still don’t know about puppy farming, and no other dog did quite as much as she and Lisa did to raise awareness on both puppy farming and rescue dogs. It was a great example of how one can use social media for the best: a cheery, non-exploitative way to make people aware of this cruel trade and raise money for charity in the process. It is amazing what one tiny dog can achieve, and it’s odd to think I won’t see her at events any more. I’m going to miss my little friend.”
But the fight in her name kept going, Lucy’s Law is now a reality in England. Marc has since written a book detaling the entire journey.
Scotland and especially Wales, where most of the UK’s puppy farmings are located, including the one where Lucy lived and suffered, have not yet banned third-party sales of puppies and kittens. However, both Scotland and Wales are keen on introducing similar legislation; it is hoped that they soon take this step and help end the cruelty.