by Olivia Kennaway, Paws in Work blogger.
lucy's law comes into effect today, monday 6th april 2020.
Given the content, it’s shocking that in 2020 we are welcoming the first day and not the anniversary of the law. However this is a huge milestone for animal welfare, in particular for puppies and kittens, and must be celebrated.
who is lucy and what is her law?
The story begins with a nameless, tricolour, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who became infertile after being unrelentingly bred for years on a Welsh (totally legal) puppy farm. For clarity's sake, a puppy farm is not a wonderful place where puppies run around in lush green fields and snuggle up in front of open-hearth fires on a cushion at night with mum. No, sadly this pretty picture is all it is, a picture.
The reality couldn't be further from the truth.
Puppy farmers can be suitably described as unethical, high-volume breeders whose profits come before welfare. This could mean hundreds of breeding bitches and stud dogs appallingly cooped up in tiny cages with no natural light, space to move or any social interactions (as was the case for this nameless pup). However, a puppy farmer could just as easily have “only” one breeding bitch, continually bred from litter to litter, with profits determining her fate.
This nameless Cavalier began breeding at six months old (The Kennel Club states a bitch should not be mated under twelve months old) and was continually bred for almost four years with no consideration for her welfare. On a puppy farm, the pups are often taken away from their mothers before they have been weaned, so that their new owners get them at their so-called ‘cutest’ period. The mothers are simply there to breed, not to raise their pups. The puppies are deprived of their mother’s milk and the essential socialisation needed to give them their best start in life. Many puppies are severely traumatised and do not survive this ordeal.
Puppies learn ‘how to be a dog’ from their mothers and siblings, however, being born on a puppy farm and rehomed too early takes this chance away from them. Even if they were to stay longer, the mothers themselves do not know ‘how to be a dog’. Further puppy socialisation, such as at the events held by Paws in Work, is a necessity to ensure behavioural problems do not arise in their futures.
So, back with the nameless Cavalier - isolated yet surrounded by hundreds of other caged mothers, all given the minimum levels of food and water to keep them alive with no exercise, affection or veterinary attention; bred continuously until they are worn out and their bodies give up - she finds herself infertile at just over four and a half years old.
again let me repeat, this is LEGAL.
The harsh reality is that an infertile dog has no value and is deemed worthless to a puppy farmer. They ultimately have two choices. 1 - they can legally put a gun to the dog's head and dispose of the body or 2 - they can find it in their hearts (albeit very deep down) to hand the dog over to a rescue centre, which is exactly what happened to our infertile nameless Cavalier on the 30th January 2013.
At five years old (middle-aged so to speak), Lucy was now experiencing life outside of a cage and four windowless walls for the very first time. She was much smaller than other Cavalier King Charles Spaniels her age; emancipated, yet terrified and coping with physical and emotional scars. Her condition was so poor, the rescue centre didn't think she would survive. However, thanks to a lot of medical treatment and care, her adoption bio read as follows:
“Halo (Lucy’s nickname when first rescued) is a 5-year-old ex-breeding Cavalier. She is absolutely tiny for her breed and is very nervous. She will be seeing our vet as her hips appear to be fused and she has a reduced range of movement in her hind legs. Dear little Halo [Lucy] is very worried at the moment, and will need a kind and gentle dog in her new home to learn from, and help raise her confidence. She needs plenty of tender loving care.”
Introducing Lisa Garner a week later, Lucy’s adopted mum. Lisa recalls how;
“When I first saw Lucy, she was skin and bone and very withdrawn. She was absolutely tiny, weighing only eight pounds. Lucy didn’t even resemble the breed. She had bald patches, stained feet from being kept on a urine-covered floor and an arched back”.
Heartbreaking isn't it?
And remember, Lucy finds herself in this abhorrent condition totally legally.
Over the remaining three years of her life, Lucy found love with Lisa and was even awarded “Most Heroic Hound” at the NEC National Pet Show 2014. However, despite all of the new love and care, Lucy “would still cower sometimes when you went to pick her up, had separation anxiety and would sit crying behind the door on the rare occasions I had to leave her” says Lisa.
During her three years of freedom, Lucy became the face of Lucy’s Law, a ten-year campaign led by founder of Pup Aid, Marc Abraham, (or ‘Marc the Vet’). After over 300 visits to Westminster by Marc, the government finally passed ‘Lucy’s Law’ into English legislation on 13th May 2019 coming into effect on the 6th April 2020. The law bans the commercial (for-profit/non-rescue) third party trade (such as pet shops or commercial dealers) in puppies and kittens, making all breeders accountable and providing transparency for prospective puppy/kitten buyers.
What does all this mean?
Well, from today, a huge step has been taken in preventing Lucy’s story from happening to other dogs and cats in England. Anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten under six months old must either deal directly with a breeder or an animal rehoming centre.
There is still a lot of work to do for animal welfare and we hope the rest of the UK will follow suit by implementing Lucy’s Law. However, this is certainly an incredible start and a momentous end to our story. One that began with a nameless, tricolour, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and ends with Lucy, a beloved and heroic little dog with an entire law named after her.
**If you’re worried about where your puppy has come from check out the Government’s Petfished website to see an essential checklist of tips to make sure your new pet is healthy and happy.
There is also The Puppy Contract, which has been designed as a tool to encourage the responsible breeding and buying of puppies - ensuring buyers have all of the information they need to make an informed decision when buying a puppy and allowing responsible breeders to set themselves apart by demonstrating the care and attention they have put into breeding puppies with the best chance of being happy and healthy.
For the full story of how the law came to be, give Marc Abrahams book a read “Lucy's Law: The story of a little dog who changed the world” and share Lucy’s story with others.