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Law on buying pets to change to end horror of puppy farming

8:01 am, 22nd August 2018

Now the government has signalled its intention to target puppy farms and puppy smugglers with the aim of reducing the number of animals living in horrific breeding conditions.

The sale of puppies and kittens by pet shops and other commercial dealers will be banned under plans put out for consultation by the government.

Anyone buying or adopting a pet less than six months old will have to deal directly with the breeder or a rescue centre under the proposed ban.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove says the government would back a law that makes it illegal to buy or adopt a puppy from anyone other than a licensed breeder or animal re-homing centre.

The law would include kittens, too.

It is hoped the move will make it easier for potential buyers to know where their pet has come from and the conditions in which it has been raised.

“What we want to do is to try to make sure that anyone who has a pet will know that that puppy has been brought up in the right circumstances,” Mr Gove told Sky News.

“That means we are seeking to outlaw third-party sales and say that you can only buy a puppy from a legitimate breeder, someone that you can visit, that you can see that puppy alongside their mum so that you know that animal has been brought up in a caring environment.”

The new legislation comes off the back of a nine-year campaign, called Lucy’s Law, led by vet Marc Abraham of the Pup Aid campaign.

He was motivated by the story of Lucy, a King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a UK puppy farm in 2013.

She’d been used as a breeding bitch for five years, forced to have litter after litter, while living in appalling conditions.

“Before Lucy was rescued, she would have most likely been confined to a cage or a pen,” Mr Abraham told Sky News.

“Every single litter, her puppies would have been removed too early because there’s an urgency to sell them before they stop being cute.

“She would have probably been interbred, kept on straw or sawdust and she wouldn’t have been given any veterinary attention.”

Puppy farming and smuggling is a lucrative business.

Demand for puppies in the UK far outstrips supply from ethical breeders, meaning unethical breeders can charge high prices for puppies and kittens.

But there are concerns that a ban on third-party sales would penalise pet shops which are already facing new, stricter sanctions on what puppies and kittens they can sell.

“New animal activities licensing regulations, which cover dog breeding and pet vending, will raise the bar on businesses that are involved in these activities,” the Pet Industry Federation, which represents more than 2,000 pet businesses in the UK, told Sky News.

“We are concerned that if an outright ban on third-party sales be brought in without allowing the new regulations to become established, this would potentially lead to sales going underground.”

Despite the profits that can be made by unscrupulous dealers, a leading animal welfare charity said sentences were “paltry” for individuals who were found guilty of animal mistreatment.

Paula Boyden, veterinary director at Dogs Trust, told Sky News: “Currently if you are found guilty of smuggling puppies illegally into the UK you can get a sentence of up to three months.

“But if you are found guilty of illegally importing cigarettes, you can receive up to seven years.”

Tougher sentencing is being introduced this October as part of a raft of new animal welfare legislation.

But with regards to Lucy’s Law, Ms Boyden says, to be most effective, it needs to be backed up by other measures.

“This is a great opportunity to make something really robust.

“In addition to it, what we’d like to see is regulation of rehoming centres and sanctuaries. We’d like to see tightening up of the rules around pet travel, as well as the total trace-ability of dogs being bred in the UK.”