Sadly, this year will always be remembered for its human doom and gloom, global misery, and our own feelings of uncertainty, and in the animal welfare world we’ve also witnessed severe disruptions too. But with your help, and the help of many other animal-lovers across the UK, we may actually see a positive outcome for one very important pet-related issue which, I think you’ll agree, would make a lovely change?
Lucy’s Law is the ban on 3rd party commercial puppy and kitten dealers in England, to ensure puppies are always seen interacting with their mum in the place they were born; so the only way to get a dog is direct from the breeder making them all accountable, or adopting from a rescue shelter instead. However, early Lockdown immediately weakened this law, restrictions were temporarily lifted to limit potential human to human Covid transmission, and puppies were allowed to be delivered without owners meeting the mums at all, let alone viewing their breeding conditions.
Add this worrying normalisation of puppy delivery to the huge increase in puppy demand and the results were, and still are, absolutely devastating; from inadequate puppy socialisation due to social distancing to an increasing likelihood of separation anxiety as some owners begin working away from home again. Unsurprisingly, as demand and desperation for cute dogs grew and grew, so their sources became more questionable; made famous by the high-profile passing of Mr Chai, a sick Pomeranian pup legally imported from Russia by a celeb couple from Love Island. But Mr Chai was just one of thousands of poorly pups that are still being separated from their mums too early on overseas puppy farms, made to travel long distances by air and/or road, and imported into the UK, and all totally legally, a clearly disturbing route to market both immorally and unethically.
With Lucy’s Law restrictions thankfully now reinstated, in line with government advice for prospective puppy buyers to always physically see mum with pup in the place he/she was born, it really doesn’t take much working out that this invaluable guidance is simply impossible to ever achieve with these vulnerable young pups legally imported into the UK! Furthermore, shortly after Mr Chai succumbed to his multiple diseases, a government e-petition to ‘Ban the exploitative import of young puppies for sale in the UK’ was started, and in just over six weeks, had already collected over 100,000 signatures from concerned animal-loving members of the public, as well as high profile dog fans including Ricky Gervais, Simon Cowell, Ellie Goulding, Peter Egan, Sue Perkins, Rachel Riley, Paul O’Grady, Davina McCall, and loads more.
Now, campaigning for change should always be accompanied by a practical solution, which in this case is simply to raise the minimum import age of a puppy for sale in the UK from the current 15 weeks to at least six months. This would mean that a) the puppy’s permanent teeth will have come through, which is almost impossible to fake, making age detection and therefore law enforcement both possible and effective, b) rabies vaccination, blood tests, and exceeding maximum incubation time for the virus would be easily achievable, so would greatly reduce the risk of introducing rabies into the UK, which is life-threatening to both dogs and humans, and most importantly c) it’s unlikely puppies of six months old and above will be as desirable to prospective buyers. Put simply, all this would mean older pups would be much less likely to be advertised, searched for online, purchased, or even kept on a breeder’s premises for half a year; so therefore improved legislation would hopefully act as a useful deterrent, with thousands of these irresponsibly-bred puppies unlikely to be produced in the first place.
Many of you will be aware that 100,000 signatures on a government petition triggers a debate in Westminster. By gaining even more signatures it can only help apply even more pressure on the government to act and change legislation. If successful, the result would mean all young pups could only be legally sourced from homebred responsible UK breeders and rescues, overseas rescues, or responsibly-bred pups ethically brought into the country, all in line of course with Lucy’s Law. So to all the animal-loving fans of the brilliant VetHelpDirect, please consider signing and sharing this important petition which can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/326261, and be part of the solution to help prevent cruelty to our four-legged friends, their parents imprisoned on cruel overseas puppy farms, as well as ending the crushing emotional and financial heartache to purchasers of sick and dying pups in the UK.
Finally, I’d like to say a huge thanks to VetHelpDirect for supporting this campaign. Please always use the hashtag #BanPuppyImports when sharing the petition on social media, and why not also include a picture of your lovely pet too? Thanks everyone!
Marc Abraham is a media vet, campaigner, and author of ‘Lucy’s Law: the story of a little dog that changed the world’. You can follow him on Twitter @marcthevet, and Facebook: Marc the Vet.