Lucy’s Law Victory: What happens next in the war against puppy farms?

23 Aug 2018       By admin

The Government has backed the ban of third party puppy and kitten sales in the UK; a law that Lucy’s Law campaigners have fought so desperately for. This huge victory will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the welfare of puppies bred and sold and will drastically cut down the demand for puppy farmed dogs. But what does this mean for existing puppy farms and dealers, and are there any loopholes that can be exploited to enable them to continue?


What more needs to be done to ensure puppy farms become a thing of the past?


Why are puppy farms so bad?


Puppy farm conditions. Image by RSPCA

It goes without saying, the conditions in which dogs and puppies are kept, are usually appalling. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Dogs bred in these conditions are often riddled with disease and health conditions. They haven’t been vet checked or socialised and many have never even seen daylight. In short, the majority of puppies bred like this are shown to have serious behavioural as well as health issues.


As well as the puppies’ welfare, breeding bitches are confined to small pens and bred over and over, with no concern for their health, until they’re no longer of use; at which point they’re disposed of.


Breeding dogs in this way, purely for profit, should not have a place in our society where dogs are ‘mans’ best friend’. Also, given that the reason the majority of young adult dogs euthanised, is due to behavioural issues, stopping a major source of this at the root cause, is essential.


Can puppy farms still remain in business?


While the ban will certainly cut off puppy farms’ main supply chain, there is concern that puppy farms and large-scale breeders will simply become puppy sales rooms, marketing themselves directly to buyers and cutting out the middle man.


In theory, this is exactly what could potentially happen. Puppy farms could in effect advertise and sell directly to buyers. Some already do. There is already a huge, licensed puppy farm in Lincolnshire that legally sells puppies on a huge scale with no regard for the welfare of their breeding dogs. Even with the new law they will continue as they are.


We are also concerned that licensed puppy farms could continue their practices by sending puppies to Wales and Scotland where the law will not apply. We are hopeful they will follow suit but this may take time.


However, the good news is that along with the ban, new legal requirements will also come into force which will make is much harder for puppy farms to continue to breed in the way they have and puts a much greater emphasis on dog welfare and breeder responsibility. While large scale dog breeding may still continue, the new tighter regulations will make it much harder for puppy farms to operate in ways which have been so detrimental to dog welfare.


New requirements coming into force


The ban will come into force in October and will mean that:


  • Pet shops and third-party dealers will not be able to sell puppies anymore
  • Buyers will only be able to purchase a puppy from the breeder or from a registered animal rescue centre
  • Puppies should be viewed alongside their mother
  • Breeders will not be able to breed from dogs that require lifelong medication or that have had surgery to correct ‘exaggerate conformation’ that affects their health.
  • Breeders will not be allowed to breed from a dog that’s undergone two caesarean sections
  • Breeders must show that puppies have been appropriately socialised
  • Breeders must show they’ve ensured puppies are in good health and are of an acceptable temperament
  • All breeders selling puppies for profit will have to apply for a license.


What else needs to be done?


The Lucy’s Law victory is one of the biggest breakthroughs in animal welfare we’ve seen, but there does need to be further development to ensure the regulations are water-tight and not susceptible for abuse. There are other measures that could also be introduced that would tighten the law even further and offer more protection for dogs and buyers alike.



Firstly, those who will be issuing licenses and responsible for inspecting breeders, must receive full and comprehensive training. Without this, licenses could easily be issued to unethical breeders, allowing the problem to continue.

We have seen first hand that the current license issuing council departments are not thorough enough. They see what we would regard as neglect and abuse and simply ignore it. This must change.


Licenses for every breeder

The new regulations mean that breeders not making a profit are not required to have a license. Many would like to see anyone that is wanting to breed and sell puppies, even if it’s just one litter, requiring a license. If every single breeder has a license number, this would enable them to be monitored more accurately. Without this in place, unscrupulous breeders will be able to operate under the threshold without inspection or authorities being aware of them.



There needs to be greater regulation around animal sale advertising. Puppy farmers and sellers are slipping under the radar with online advertising; false names and addresses and new accounts are just some of the ways they dupe buyers into believing they’re genuine sellers. If everyone selling even just one litter of puppies, were required to have a license, all adverts could include their license number and therefore be more effectively monitored.


Rescue centre licensing

Another concern is that puppy farms will rename themselves as rescue or rehoming centres which are currently unregulated. They would then be able to ‘rehome’ puppies in exchange for ‘adoption fees’ and thus continue to trade under a different guise.

If there were further regulations introduced to ensure rescue centres were both licensed and inspected, this would offer further protection for dogs and buyers and ensure breeders don’t expose the possible loopholes open here.


French bulldogs on a puppy farm in Kent. Image by RSPCA



The media attention that Lucy’s Law has generated will have a positive effect on how buyers seek to purchase a puppy. Raising awareness of puppy farms, how they operate and what buyers should be doing when considering purchasing a puppy, is essential in outlawing this trade. Many buyers are simply unaware how puppy farmers operate and the steps they can take to ensure they’re buying their dog from a reputable breeder.


In a report commissioned by the PDSA, figures showed that 14% of people would consider buying from a puppy farm and 58% would consider buying from a pet shop. We want to see those figures showing 0%. The more awareness we can raise and the more we can educate members of the public, the more vigilant buyers will become. With tighter regulations and super-savvy buyers, we hope to soon see puppy farms a thing of the past.

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