Lucy the little dog who dramatically improved animal welfare law

Lucy of Lucy's Law fame
Lucy. Photo in public domain.
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This is about Lucy’s Law which came into force in the UK last week. It makes it illegal for ‘third parties’, pet shops and online traders to sell puppies and kittens under the age of six months according to a Sunday Times report. British citizens now have to go direct to a cat or dog breeder and meet the puppy or kitten with their mother or, alternatively, adopt through a rescue shelter. Hopefully it is the end of puppy and kitten farms (aka puppy mills). Breach of the law results in an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months on conviction.

Licensed dog breeders are required to show puppies interacting with their mothers in their place of birth

We owe a debt of gratitude to Lucy, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from an horrific puppy farm in Wales. We must also thank celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, Rachel Riley, Paul O’Grady, Brian May, Ben Fogle, Peter Egan, Carrie Symonds and others who helped publicise the need for change.

Marc Abraham
Marc Abraham. Photo: Daily Mirror.

Above all we owe a debt of gratitude to a man you might not have heard of, a T.V. veterinarian whose name is Marc Abraham. Abraham campaigned against puppy farms for many years. Despite his best efforts and the efforts of many other people combined with hundreds of trips to Westminster progress in enacting this necessary law was agonisingly slow. Abraham said that he hit brick wall after brick wall until stardust was sprinkled over the process when celebrities publicised his efforts.

Lucy won Rescue Animal of the Year in 2016. After her rescue from a Welsh puppy farm she lived four happy years with Lisa Garner who adopted her. She blossomed into a loving, cheeky character who everybody fell in love with. She had a zest for life. When rescue staff found Lucy in a barn in January 2013 she weighed less than half her normal weight. Her spine was curved from living in cramped conditions. Her back paws nearly touched her front paws. Her skin smelled of burning flesh from the ammonia produced by straw rotten with urine and faeces.

For five years she endured these conditions in near darkness with no name, no love, no bedding and no exercise. She was simply a robotic machine for the production of puppies which were removed from her before they were weaned. She did this until she became infertile and of no use to the person who abused her. Puppies and kittens from puppy farms are often ill as the new owners suddenly find out quite quickly and to their heavy expense.

Kitten factory
Kitten factory. Photo: Facebook.

Lucy’s five years on the puppy farm caused her to ‘shutdown’ and become very frightened said Lisa Garner. But with plenty of TLC she blossomed, a testament to the durability of companion animals, both cats and dogs.

Lucy’s rescue was the beginning of the campaign instigated by Abraham who says that normally about 200 bitches are kept in a single barn by puppy farm owners where they are shut up in tiny spaces hidden from view.

Until Lucy’s law often sick puppies and kittens for these farms were sold through pet shops and at motorway services “for convenience”. The sellers would often fob of buyers when they wanted to see the mother. It is always advisable to see the kitten or puppy that you wish to adopt with their mother and to see the environment in which they’ve been raised. You need to talk to the breeder in direct one-to-one conversation in their facility.

It is very good news to know that Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s fiance, is a Lucy’s law supporter. When they decided to adopt a dog, Abraham recommended the rescue charity Friends of Animals Wales. He delivered Dilyn, a Jack Russell cross, to Number 10. With an animal welfare advocate at the heart of government I can hope for more improvements to animal welfare in the UK over the coming years.


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