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dogs feeding

Great news for England canines — puppy farms are now illegal! Lucy’s Law was passed 6th April 2020, the result of a decade long campaign lead by vet Marc Abraham with the sole purpose of abolishing puppy farming.

If you aren’t familiar with the saga, Lucy was a spaniel adopted in Wales from a puppy farm. She began life in disgusting conditions, a world away from the comfortable life her rescuers indulged her in. Sadly, she passed away in 2016, but her movement lives on.

Breeding healthy animals and ensuring they go to the best possible homes is no easy feat; it takes money, resources, and training. Lucy’s Law deters unethical backyard breeders by forcing them to obtain a license. Licenses are challenging to obtain, and those who aren’t committed likely won’t finish the process.

The law also encourages people to adopt: If there’s less demand for puppies, there is less appeal to breed them intensively. In the same vein, the law acts as a deterrent to smugglers who take advantage of the Pet Travel Scheme to bring young animals into the UK to sell for profit. It’s an all-around win.

Lucy's Law means real consequences for unethical breeders

All pets in England must be responsibly sourced from this point on. Buyers are encouraged to rescue or buy directly from a breeder, and third-party sellers are illegalized (such as pet shops).

Breeders must abide by these requirements.

  • Become licensed before breeding and selling puppies
  • Show puppies interacting with mother dog in their place of birth

Failure to comply can lead to the business receiving an unlimited fine or being sent to prison for up to six months. Dog and cat breeders are now solely responsible for the welfare of their litters.

What’s the deal with puppy farms, anyway?

Like agricultural farms, puppy farms consist of many animals being intensively bred to be sold for profit. Of course, the more animals you have within an establishment, the harder it becomes to give these animals the required care.

Responsible breeders only breed animals which they can adequately care for and often go above and beyond to ensure their puppies have the best life possible. On the other hand, puppy farms will churn out litter after litter, with a blatant disregard for health. The puppies that come out of these establishments are often of poor health, with many behavioral issues stemming from a lack of socialization and being separated from their mothers too soon.

US regulation is littered with loopholes

Puppy mills aren’t illegal in the USA — something that we hope will change. There are laws in place which attempt to inhibit the irresponsible breeding of puppies, but unfortunately, many of them have gaping loopholes. The good news is that organizations such as the ASPCA are seeking to promote knowledge about responsible breeding and buying.

A quick summary of US puppy mill regulation

  • 2008 saw Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia passing puppy mill laws
  • In 2009, ten states followed suit with laws in 2009 to crack down on puppy mills.
  • In 2010, Missouri voters passed Proposition B, the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act“, which establishes minimum standards of humane care and limits breeders to allowing 50 dogs to breed within their establishments. The Missouri Solution was signed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
  • In 2018, Ohio passed the “strongest laws in the states” to abolish puppy farms and unethical breeding.
  • The USDA regularly inspects large-scale commercial breeders.

What can we do in the states?

Until a law is passed in the states to make it universally illegal to buy from secondary sellers, there are steps we can take to make sure our pupper was born and bred in an ethical environment.

Tips for identifying illegal puppies

Visit puppy more than once — make sure you see the puppy a few times, to get a feel for the environment the breeder is raising them in.

Make sure you see the mother with the puppies — to ensure the puppies aren’t separated from their mother too early, and to ensure the mother is in good health, make sure you see the mother and pups together.

Look for a pup that seems healthy and is reacting to your presence — Puppies should be alert and responsive. If not, this can be a sign of disease, pain, and illness.

Visit the house in which the puppies are being reared and raised — make sure the house looks like puppies are actually being raised in it, and not somewhere the breeder brings the puppies at the time of selling.

Review the paperwork (license, registration documents, veterinary records, microchip details) — to make sure you purchase is ethical, see the professional reports.

Don’t pay in cash — If you pay in cash, there is no evidence of the purchase. You may need to use evidence in the future if things with your puppy don’t seem quite right.

Don’t feel pressured — If you feel suspicious about the conditions, the breeder, or the conditions of the puppies, get in touch with your local authority.

You can help push legislation forward 🏛

Not buying illegal puppies is just part of being a responsible pet owner. If you’re ready to take it a step further, The Humane Society, The Puppy Mill Project, and the Kennel Club all offer advice on how to push for responsible breeding legislation forward.

Compared to other animal welfare issues, puppy mills and other forms of irresponsible breeding have taken the backburner. By advocating, campaigning, and spreading the word, you can help push the laws and hold breeders responsible in the states. Let’s do it!