2017: Year Review & Working Together in 2018 to Make Lucy’s Law Happen

It’s that time of year when we look back and see what progress in the last twelve months, if any, we’ve made in the fight against puppy farming – and I’m glad to tell you that last year we definitely made progress. Now most of you who already follow my Twitter and FB Page will know I work as a vet almost full time; looking after the lovely pets and their owners in Peacehaven and surrounding areas at Meridian Vets near Brighton, East Sussex. Tuesdays are my day off and that’s when I do my campaigning in Westminster which we’ll come to shortly.

Being a vet is the only thing I ever wanted to do and as well as treating sick and poorly animals it’s also a daily reminder of the hard evidence of irresponsible dog breeding – not just the pups but those poor breeding dogs too which are often overlooked. As well as loving practising as a vet I also visit schools to talk about animal welfare, as well as my continuing media work which also helps educate and raise awareness of important issues e.g. puppy farming and rescue pet adoption.

I’m sure most of you will agree that one of the saddest, if not the saddest, moment of the last year or so was the passing of ex-rescue breeding dog, Lucy the Rescue Cavalier; a victim of the legal puppy farm system used for breeding, for many years with no regard for her health or welfare. Fortunately, Lucy (below) was adopted by Lisa Garner in 2013. Lucy quickly became and still is the symbol and mascot of anti-puppy farm campaigning, but more about little Lucy later.

Campaigning-wise, last January we were just coming off the back of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) sub-committee report published in November 2016 which recommended, after a visit to a licensed puppy farm that sold its puppies via pet shops and other third parties, as well as hearing evidence from experts like Julia Carr (Canine Action UK) that the Government ban third party sales of puppies, as the committee recognised that:

“Responsible breeders would never sell through a pet shop licence holder. The process of selling through a third party seller has an unavoidable negative impact upon the welfare of puppies. It also distances the purchaser from the environment in which their puppy was bred. Banning third party sales so that the public bought directly from breeders would bring public scrutiny to bear on breeders, thereby improving the welfare conditions of puppies.”

The Government, (DEFRA), then rejected the recommendation, referring to lack of clarity over enforcement and stating it supported “robust licensing” as an alternative solution. However the Government also reiterated (and still highlights) the importance of prospective buyers seeing puppies interacting with their mother in the place the pup was born, which of course directly conflicts with continuing permission for commercial third party dealers to sell puppies where the mother is not present and away from the breeding premises.

It soon became clear that the Government was apparently prepared to legitimise an activity which does not match its own best practice recommendations – but why? Well those of you who’ve been following the story will know that in 2016 three of the four biggest animal charities in the UK – Dogs Trust, Battersea, and Blue Cross shocked supporters by suddenly U-turning and refusing to support a ban on puppies sold in pet shops and other commercial third party dealers; removing all traces of their previous opposite stance from their websites. Fortunately their previous stances were already duplicated on other sites e.g. ‘Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is backing a campaign to ban the sale for profit of puppies and kittens in pet shops’ and ‘Blue Cross calls for ban on sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops’.

After various written communications with the Government at the end of 2016, seeking confirmation of the position as it appeared to be, I shared this news in an interview on TalkRadio which can be found here (note that since the interview, the RSPCA has now fully committed to supporting an immediate ban on third party sellers). Finally, in January 2017 I met with Government Minister Lord Gardiner, at DEFRA HQ who told me face to face that DEFRA’s decision to ignore EFRA’s recommendation to ban third party sales was in fact a direct result of being lobbied by Dogs Trust and Blue Cross, with Battersea prepared to just ‘sit on the fence’. This radio interview and Ministerial meeting were to set the precedent for 2017.

In February, puppy farming campaigners and dog-lovers alike, still shocked by these clear U-turns by some of the UK’s biggest animal charities set out to find out why. Some campaigners even started petitions begging these charities once again to review their stances and support an immediate ban on pups sold by third parties like they did in 2014 (see ‘Dogs Trust, Blue Cross, Battersea: Please don’t let puppies keep being sold by pet shops!’)

Knowing now that it was Dogs Trust and Blue Cross who had actively lobbied Government to effectively keep puppies in pet shops and sold by other third parties, I met with Rob Flello MP and we decided to set up the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dog Welfare in Westminster and invite the ‘Big 4’ charities in to explain why some of them appear to be protecting the puppy farmers (third party sales allow pups to be bred behind closed doors away from the public), rather than protecting the poor dogs?

Just to explain, ‘All-Party Parliamentary Groups’ (also referred to as APPGs), are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within Parliament but provide an excellent platform for discussion and airing relevant issues/views; and thanks to Chair Rob and elected officers Paul Monaghan MP, Matthew Offord MP, Sir Roger Gale MP, Sir David Amess MP, the All-Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG) was born with APDAWG’s first meeting scheduled for April. Also in February I gave a talk on early detection of pet emergencies at my local rescue shelter Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, as well as being invited back to my old school to talk to the pupils about being a vet, my international voluntary work, and campaigning for animal welfare.

March started with a bang with the mainstream media now picking up on what some of the big charities had been up to with this shockingly revealing Independent article: ‘Move to ban sale of puppies in UK pet shops derailed following opposition from leading dog charities’. What was starting to become clear was the arguments the charities were using to oppose a ban, which ranged from risking restricting the supply of pups to the suggestion that sales would go going underground, which were all false claims and speculations, not backed up by any evidence whatsoever. The plot was definitely thickening, and we’ll look into these claims a little later on. In March I also attended an excellent ‘Pet Theft Awareness’ Parliamentary reception organised by Debbie Matthews’ Vets Get Scanning Campaign, and Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA UK), highlighting the need for Government to make it compulsory for vets and authorities to scan (as well as chip) the UK’s dogs.

Meeting at No.10 with Julia Carr (Canine Action UK) and Sarah Clover (Barrister)

The thing about campaigning in Westminster is that every single meeting, be it with a Minister, MP, MP’s assistant, either in the Commons, Lords, Portcullis House, DEFRA HQ, or even at No.10 reveals something which takes you to the next level; like the hook at the end of every episode in a boxset of Homeland or 24. I’m so fortunate to work alongside fellow campaigners Linda and Sue from C.A.R.I.A.D., Julia Carr, Sarah Clover, Philippa Robinson (The Karlton Index), Peter Egan, Victoria Stilwell, Grace and Steve from Finding Shelter, Lorraine Platt (Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation), Shakira Free Miles from SaveABulls, Lisa Garner, Boycott Dogs4Us, Say No to Pet Shop Pups, and so many others, as well as dedicated Parliamentarians all prioritising animal welfare who are prepared to stand up for the dogs. It’s not always easy speaking out and fighting for the voiceless, especially when those organisations (with massive budgets, the ear of Government, complete with dedicated PR departments and who should really know better), appear to be obstructing progress and by inaction even seem to be upholding the very activity you’re campaigning against e.g. irresponsible dog breeding and puppy farming.

April always starts with an important event where some of us campaigners can hang out and take a break from campaigning – CEVA’s Animal Welfare Awards – of which I am a judge and past winner, which honours the excellent work done by campaigners and ethical organisations working hard – often with/for no money – to improve the lives of animals. Also in April another General Election was called – an election that, sadly, anti-puppy farming campaigning MPs and good friends Rob Flello and Paul Monaghan weren’t to be re-elected from. I thank them for all their incredible support in this process and hope they return to Westminster one day.

The first ever APDAWG meeting in Westminster invited Dogs Trust, Blue Cross, Battersea, and RSPCA into Parliament to explain their stance on banning pet shop pups. RSPCA stated unequivocally their support for an immediate ban on pups sold in pet shops and by other third parties. However, as predicted, Dogs Trust not only confirmed their refusal to support an immediate ban on puppies sold in pet shops but also denied lobbying the Government to persuade them to do so – a claim later disproved when DEFRA shared Dogs Trust’s joint briefing (with Blue Cross) to effectively make sure that the law allowing puppies to be sold by sellers in the absence of the pups’ mum, and away from their place of birth remained firmly intact. You can read the briefing here.  It’s also worth noting that although invited, representatives of Battersea and Blue Cross refused to attend this APDAWG meeting in Parliament; instead sending statements also confirming their refusal to support an immediate ban of puppies in pet shops and sold by other third parties. April also saw me giving a talk on responsible pet ownership in Edinburgh with Tesco Pet Insurance.

The team at This Morning Live including Eamonn Holmes, Ruth Langsford, and Rylan. 

May witnessed further anger and frustration from campaigners almost in disbelief that Dogs Trust, Blue Cross, and Battersea were all refusing to support an immediate ban on pet shop pups. Media-wise, I enjoyed being resident vet and hanging out with celeb PupAid supporters Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford at This Morning Live (above) in Birmingham NEC giving talks on responsible pet ownership and the responsible way to choose a new dog i.e. always ask “Where’s Mum?” if buying a pup, or of course, better still adopt from rescue (where there are also pups needing homes). May usually signifies the start of dog show season and 2017 was no different as I helped judge the annual Great Hampstead Bark Off organised by one of my favourite dog rescue charities All Dogs Matter.

Now summer was well underway, June meant judging another few fun dog shows including one in the garden of local Sussex village pub, The Royal Oak, in aid of PupAid and also Raystede’s Annual Summer Fair & Fun Dog Show – this year won by a rescue St Bernard called Bethany. In June I also attended this year’s excellent National Dog Bite Prevention & Behaviour Conference hosted by my dear friend and fellow dog welfare campaigner, TV dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell. You can buy tickets for next year’s conference here.

Parliament is on recess (holiday) for most of July and August so I had the time to film some advice videos on looking after your pet in summer for Good Morning Britain, as well as judging another few fun dog shows, including Mayhew’s brilliant ‘Hounds on the Heath’, raising funds and awareness for rescue pets in their care, as well as All Dogs Matter’s brilliant ‘Pup Idol’. There was one vent in Westminster in July in support of Humane Society International UK’s campaign to highlight the South Korean dog meat trade of which I’m aiming to go out there soon and raise awareness. The summer months are a busy time vetting too with endless grass seeds, heat strokes, seasonal allergies, and even adder bites keeping us busy at the surgery. Summer also saw PupAid gain our incredible new main sponsor, Nutriment dog (and cat) food, and we couldn’t thank them enough for all their generous support especially as our annual fun dog show was now just weeks away.

PupAid main sponsors Nutriment. 

For many dog-lovers and campaigners alike, September means PupAid’s fun dog show, and 2017 (our sixth in Primrose Hill) was by far the most successful show to date. Literally thousands of people and their dogs descended on Primrose Hill to take part in the celeb-judged dog show, shop for doggy accessories and treats, enjoy the live acoustic music with a vegan picnic, and generally be part of what we believe is now the largest (and free) puppy farming and rescue pet awareness event in the world.

Naturally I’m incredibly proud of PupAid, and there are so many people involved, all volunteers, that make this unique day in the canine calendar what it’s become. But special thanks must go to my fellow PupAid director Rebecca Weller, PR/celeb liaisons Laura, Chloe, and Sarah, official photographer Julia Claxton, Owen & Haatchi, as well as all our sponsors including Nutriment, Specsavers, Agria Pet Insurance, Hearing Dogs, Halo Dogs, K9 Angels, and the Royal Parks too.

Thanks also to all the stall holders, celeb judges (who this year included our patron Meg Mathews, Tony Robinson, Sue Perkins, Peter Egan, Steph Pratt), Primrose Hill Pets, and basically everyone involved: you know who you are. Next year’s PupAid is already confirmed for 1st Sept 2018 so hopefully see you all there. September also meant party conference season and I attended Labour’s conference including their animal welfare fringe meeting. September finished with the annual Hearing Dogs Awards hosted by my good friend Rachel Riley and I was extremely proud to hand out an award with Princess Anne.

Winner of Best in Show at PupAid 2017 with Paul (Protect All Wildlife) and Rory (Animal Advocate)

October meant another trip to Scotland, this time to be locked in a dog kennel at Edinburgh Dog & Cats Home (below) of which I’m a proud ambassador! The few of us locked up were only allowed laptops and mobile devices and our mission was to raise money for the shelter. Thanks to my supporters I raised about £1600 of which I’m very grateful (you can still donate here) as all the money goes to the animals and I look forward to taking part again next year. I then travelled across to Glasgow to attend the SNP Conference and met up with various politicians including Lisa Cameron MP and Emma Harper MSP.

Stuck in a kennel at Edinburgh Dog and Cats Home

October also saw very successful ‘United Against Puppy Farming’ rallies take place in Westminster and Cardiff on the same day with campaigners, rescues, MPs and AMs coming together with one voice for the dogs. As well as being busy locked in a kennel, campaigning, and vetting in October I also travelled to Philadelphia with my buddy Peter Egan to attend Sproutfest fun dog show (see below) – a kind of American PupAid raising awareness of puppy farming and rescue dogs in the States.

Sproutfest is an incredible event organised by Grace and Steve from Finding Shelter Rescue. While in the U.S., Peter and I, joined by the amazing Victoria Stilwell, participated in a rescue from an Amish puppy farm and rescued a very sick German Shepherd and cockerpoo breeding bitch whose pups were sold via third parties, later named Victoria and Pippa respectively. You can keep up to date with Victoria and Pippa’s incredible progress on Finding Shelter’s FB Page here. There was also an October Commons debate in Westminster on the Sale of Puppies in which the DEFRA minister told the house “We do not believe that a ban on third-party sellers is necessary, and that view is shared by many stakeholders”. That ‘many’ was later revealed in a Parliamentary question from Dr Lisa Cameron MP as still only Dogs Trust and Blue Cross.

At Sproutfest with Peter Egan, Victoria Stilwell, Grace and Steve Herbert from Finding Shelter

November saw yet another debate in Westminster, this time highlighting puppy smuggling with the majority of cross party MPs attending calling on the Government to ban third party puppy sales; clearly the first step in ending puppy smuggling, i.e. removing the market for smuggled pups and legal framework for any illegal activity. Support for a third party ban was now coming from most Tory MPs, Labour’s frontbench, SNP’s frontbench, and Greens.

Organisations joining these MPs in supporting an immediate third party ban were also piling up and include RSPCA, Kennel Club, International Fund for Animal Welfare, All Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG), Dog Breeding Reform Group, Conservative Animal Welfare Federation, as well as many small-midsize charities including Mayhew, All Dogs Matter, Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home, Celia Hammond, and many more. So why was the Government still only listening to Dogs Trust and Blue Cross? It was clearly time to take the campaign to ban third party puppy sales to the next level.

December was a ground-breaking month for UK dog welfare as ‘Lucy’s Law’ launched in Westminster. ‘Lucy’s Law’ is named after the late rescued ex-breeding dog ‘Lucy the Rescue Cavalier’ and calls for an immediate ban on all commercial third party sales of dogs. ‘Commercial’ means sales as part of a business, for profit. Third parties sellers are puppy dealers; people who did not breed the dogs and who operate as ‘middlemen’ between the breeders and the buying public.

Currently, the law requires third party sellers to be licensed as a ‘pet shop’, irrespective of the type of trading premises. Lucy’s Law would mean cutting out the middlemen dealers, and by default, all breeders would become transparent, accountable, and would have to show pup interacting with mum, and it would mean that puppies could no longer be sold without mum present, away from where they were born.

Lucy’s Law was launched in Parliament at a reception hosted by myself and Lisa Cameron MP with guest speakers including Peter Egan, Linda Goodman (C.A.R.I.A.D.), Andrew Penman (The Mirror), Sarah Clover (Barrister), as well as Chris Davies MP, Sue Hayman MP, Kerry McCarthy MP, and supportive statement from Caroline Lucas MP. We were also honoured to enjoy a performance by a famous Lucy – singer, songwriter and dog-lover Lucy Spraggan. Since its launch Lucy’s Law has been championed by the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, BBC Radio London, BBC 5 Live, Our Dogs Newspaper, Dogs Today Magazine, and has received significant attention and support, from MPs across all parties, from the press and in social media including celeb support. Please check out #LucysLaw on Twitter and get involved.

At the launch of Lucy’s Law in Westminster with Rebecca Weller (PupAid), Lisa Garner (Lucy the Rescue Cavalier), Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Peter Egan.

Also in December I attended the Mayhew’s fab Tinsel & Tails event to raise money for their shelter pets and projects, as well as co-hosting APDAWG’s inspiring Unsung Heroes winter meeting with new Chair Lisa Cameron MP and guest speakers Dave Wardell and Finn the Police Dog (#FinnsLaw), Dogs on the Streets founder Michelle Clark, Hearing Dogs CEO Michele Jennings, Luke Balsam, Project Manager for TheraPaws, and Paul Osborne, Fire Investigation Officer & Search Dog Handler, London Fire Brigade.

December’s APDAWG meeting in Parliament with PC Dave Wardell, Hero Dog Finn, and Beverley Cuddy (Dogs Today Magazine)

Also in December Lucy’s Law was mentioned twice in a Westminster Hall debate thanks to Dr Lisa Cameron MP and Zac Goldsmith MP, in the Main Chamber of the Commons by Dr Lisa Cameron MP, as well as in the Scottish Parliament thanks to Emma Harper MSP. On Christmas day I made my annual appearance on Sky News with Eileen Jones from Friends of the Animals Wales, discussing puppy farming, rescue pets, and of course Lucy’s Law – accompanied by rescued puppy farm breeding bitches Wendy and Ursula.

Christmas Day on Sky News with Eileen from Friends of the Animals, Kay Burley, Sky presenters, and rescued puppy farm breeding dogs Wendy and Ursula. 

Looking forward into 2018, dog-lovers must now all work together to make Lucy’s Law happen and it’s important to realise why sales of puppies through commercial third party puppy dealers are never appropriate for dog welfare. Third party puppy sellers have been around for decades and include pet shops, garden centres, dealers etc. Much to the public’s surprise, puppy farms and the third parties that they depend on to keep cruelty hidden are on the whole totally legal – so why is eliminating third parties so important to canine welfare and puppy purchasing? Well, third party sellers enable, and even encourage dogs to be bred behind closed doors – hidden away from the public, whether in Wales, Ireland, or Eastern Europe. It’s pretty obvious that removing third parties would force prospective puppy buyers to the breeders themselves – making pups interacting with their mums visible in the place they were born – ironically totally in line with the Government’s own advice.

When dogs – in fact any animal – is kept invisible to the public – it’s sadly not uncommon that this then allows animal cruelty including untreated health problems which breeding dogs, just like little Lucy, suffered from. We get sick pups removed from their mums too early, being transported hundreds of miles, dying of infectious diseases like killer parvovirus, suffering painful hereditary problems like joint and eye problems, not to mention behavioural problems like separation anxiety, house soiling, and nervous aggression. Then there are the excited new owners who now have expensive vet bills and cremation fees, etc. So, what’s the solution? Quite simply providing a means of provenance/transparency/traceability/accountability must be the first major step, i.e. Lucy’s Law.

So, with so much support from MPs, public, animal welfare organisations why hasn’t a ban of third party puppy sellers and dealers happened yet, you may ask? Well, last year revealed that a ban was actively opposed by Dogs Trust and Blue Cross – all very influential voices in Westminster. These charities tell us it’ll drive trade underground like drugs and guns. But this simply cannot be true, because if puppy dealing was completely undetectable it would be impossible to sell them! Puppy dealers depend/rely on being visible to make their sales – they need to advertise ‘overground’ – which of course makes them also visible/traceable to enforcement agencies. Puppy buyers have no need (or desire) to deliberately seek out a black market puppy. Also, these charities are all quite happy to support a ban on dog fighting – an activity that only exists underground.

The ‘fake mum’ argument commonly used is also hard to defend as people who actually know about dog behaviour will know fake mums won’t interact with another bitch’s pups in the same way as their natural mother, instead fearing the real mum returning to her pups. These charities also seem to prefer the route of ‘robust licensing’ instead of a ban. Problem is that they’re licensing – legitimising – an activity that can never be OK. It is impossible to protect the welfare of puppies by licensing because the harm is ingrained in the process of third party selling. Robust licensing is dependent upon robust enforcement, which to be effective would make it practically and economically unviable.

Significantly these charities who are persuading Government not to ban, when asked, haven’t yet given one example or any details of successful “robust licencing” of third party puppy sales (in comparison with the current (clearly failed) system), that wouldn’t negatively impact on the health or welfare of pups and mums; and that is because they don’t exist. Yet despite my campaigning colleagues and I answering fully every question or objection they’ve ever raised – they’re still claiming they want details on a ban. And all this presumably because it suits them for things to stay as they are, and because they don’t have the vision or passion to work towards such a bold goal. No one changes anything by saying “it can’t be done”, change only happens by believing it is possible and getting on with doing it.

A ban works differently to a licence. An example of an outright ban is in relation to smoking. Smoking indoors was banned in places like pubs, hotels, and workplaces in 2007. It was, and still is very noticeable, and very easy to enforce, because no one is allowed to do it – you can’t be licensed to smoke in these places, so if smoking is observed, it is a clear infringement of the law and can be dealt with accordingly. A ban on third party puppy sales would be similarly identifiable (‘policing by consent’) and entirely enforceable. Commercial sellers are dependent upon advertising and attracting prospective buyers, which also means they will remain visible and traceable to enforcement agencies.

Those opposing Lucy’s Law will no doubt tell you that very few pet shops sell puppies now so why ban third party sellers? Well, firstly, if there aren’t that many high street pet shops selling pups then banning puppies from high street pet shops wouldn’t be missed or a big deal. Plus it’s essential to remember that a third party seller is anyone operating a business of selling animals as pets and is required to be licensed, even if they are selling from home, a farm or premises other than a traditional ‘shop’. The number of puppies traded by licensed commercial third parties is significant – potentially around 80,000 per year may be sold through this route.

Where is the funding going to come to enforce this we also hear? Well, it’s already illegal to operate a business of selling puppies unless the vendor holds a licence; and a ban is no more expensive to enforce and no more difficult to enforce than a licensing system, and is undoubtedly easier and cheaper, because there are no variables that have to be taken into consideration before enforcing.

Will a ban reduce the supply of puppies? No, because a ban only impacts on puppy vendors, not breeders. It will of course affect puppy distribution, forcing prospective buyers directly to the breeders making premises visible thus driving up welfare standards making all breeding establishments open to public scrutiny. Importantly, buyers would having to do the travelling (as opposed to third party sellers/deliveries/pet shops/puppy transportation (legal and illegal), etc), which would greatly remove impulse purchases, (an issue many larger charities often condemn and blame for resultant abandonment).

Responsible puppy buyers I meet in my consulting room really don’t mind traveling to the breeder and even seem prouder the greater the distance they’ve travelled. Removing the main market for cheaper, poorly bred puppies can only create demand for responsibly bred puppies or consideration of adopting from rescue as an alternative. There is no evidence to support the belief that there are not enough responsibly bred puppies to meet the demand. A market saturated with cheap, readily available puppies will most likely have reduced the demand for more responsibly bred puppies.

Finally, have you ever wondered why some of the charities opposed to an immediate ban on pet shop pups appear to highlight the illegal puppy smuggling trade rather than dare tackle the problem of legal, licensed puppy farming in the UK, continuing to lobby the Government to keep the only legal route to market for these smuggled pups wide open and legitimate (this also provides the legal framework for illegal activity)? Lucy’s Law removes the market for illegally smuggled or legally imported pups born on foreign puppy farms – all currently sold via legal third party sellers.

There are many theories put forward for the opposition from Dogs Trust and Blue Cross. Every reason given for their U-turns on their support for a ban in 2014 is still not backed by any evidence and appears to be pure speculation. In my opinion, one explanation could be their corporate/sponsorship links with the pet industry whose large pet superstores depend on permissive legislation allowing pets of all types to be sold in pet shops. I have often wondered if those pet stores are possibly fearing a slippery slope/thin end of wedge effect if a ban on third party sales of dogs is supported, which might ultimately lead to a ban on rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles – basically all animals in pet shops. It seems a plausible explanation for this determined resistance by the charities closely associated with the larger pet store corporations, and it seems to make more sense to me than the arguments the charities are actually putting forward for resisting a ban. Furthermore, I’ve always found it odd that these charities constantly highlighting the concerns about dogs/pets bought on impulse (and then later abandoned), are so closely connected with pet shop superbrands when those same pet stores are servicing and even appear to be encouraging the impulse purchases of many other types of pet animals; it all seems a bit counter-intuitive to me.

The professed concerns of these charities about whether there will be enough pups to supply demand also seems just a little ironic when same charities also express their concern about the huge numbers abandoned, especially those dogs bought as impulse purchases, often from third party sellers.

It has also struck me that the high profile  is puppy smuggling campaigns in which these charities engage, that generate enormous PR, brand visibility, and mainstream news headlines would be less effective if old knackered Staffies were the images used instead of cute Frenchie/pug pups. Maybe they fear a ban would mean they can’t sell these very conveniently rescued, imported Frenchies and pug puppies for an ‘adoption fee’ (a third party ban would not stop supply of any type of dog from a rescue centre, including for an adoption fee). I have also wondered if one of the concerns of these charities is perhaps a fear of solving the very problem they were set up to deal with – dysfunctional dogs – which is their bread and butter and results in a turnover of millions for some of these welfare organisations.

Think about it for a minute – making all breeders accountable and cutting out the traumatic third party stage would mean more well-adjusted dogs and significantly fewer ‘problem’ ones. Also more people would consider rescue as an alternative, meaning fewer and fewer dogs would remain in rescue centres, so their reason for existence would be almost redundant; they’d be in danger of becoming white elephants. Perhaps the “unintended consequences” Dogs Trust refers to in their recent statement refusing to support an immediate ban on third party sales i.e. Lucy’s Law are in fact unintended consequences on the supply of dysfunctional dogs/cute pups and their own PR and business model?  Please check out this interesting ‘Taken On Trust’ blog by The Karlton Index’s Philippa Robinson.

Interestingly to date Blue Cross and Battersea appear to have remained silent regarding Lucy’s Law. Only Dogs Trust have made their position clear against the ban. I’d like to emphasise that I am not out to attack these charities. I am attacking a stance on this particular issue. I have supported the work they do for rescue dogs for years and have the deepest respect for all the employees/volunteers on the ground/frontline staff. This is about their policy and PR, which is a separate issue from the care for the dogs in their charge. I could be wrong, but I can’t see the alternative explanations, and they are not providing any that stand up to scrutiny. In my view, this deserves to be discussed openly, not least for the benefit of their supporters and donors, and if I am wrong, then all they need to do is say so, and explain why.

Guys, there are clearly no excuses for not implementing an immediate ban on third party puppy sales. Furthermore, a ban must be immediate, because any dog spending another second, minute, hour, even weeks/months/years imprisoned on a puppy farm – kept behind closed doors away from public scrutiny – here or abroad – is far too long. Lucy’s Law is the shorthand for an immediate ban on the commercial third party sales that enable puppy farming. It’s a simple moral question with a simple moral answer. Check out Barrister Sarah Clover’s Lucy’s Law FAQ’s doc here.

So what happens next? Of course the ban would have to be inserted into law by some means. Nothing turns up fully detailed. That happens when the resources are committed to make the decision work. This is just logistics and I can assure you my team and I are fully on the case. The EFRA sub-committee have recommended the ban. The Government has, to date, rejected the ban. We know the Government has been listening more closely to date to Dogs Trust and Blue Cross.

So, we start 2018 with the Government remaining to be persuaded that Lucy’s Law and the immediate third party ban is the most effective first major step to ending puppy farms and their distribution of puppies, and it remains for those with no motives except dog welfare who believe in Lucy’s Law to continue to make the case.

What you can do in 2018

In order to help make Lucy’s Law happen in 2018 you can do 5 simple things:

  • Tweet a pic of your pet supporting Lucy’s Law using the hashtag #LucysLaw
  • Ask Dogs Trust and Blue Cross the real reasons they continue to refuse to support Lucy’s Law
  • Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion (EDM) 695 calling on the Government to immediately ban the sale of puppies by pet shops and other third­ party commercial dealers
  • Visit the dedicated page on The Mirror’s website here.
  • Change your profile pic to the image below.

So Happy New Year folks – let’s make 2018 truly the Year of the Dog and finally join together to make the biggest step in ending puppy farming – Lucy’s Law – actually happen. Thanks again to all my fellow campaigners especially Linda and Sue (C.A.R.I.A.D.), Julia Carr (Canine Action UK), Sarah Clover (Barrister), Philippa Robinson (Karlton Index), Victoria Stilwell, Peter Egan, Lisa Garner, Grace and Steve Herbert, Boycott Dogs4Us, Protect All Wildlife, Animal Advocate, Animal Team, SayNoToPetShopPups, Shakira Free Miles, Anne Brummer (Save Me), Linda Rimington, Andrew Penman (Mirror), Beverley Cuddy (Dogs Today Magazine), Ricky Gervais, Jane Fallon, Brian May, Angela and Martin Humphries, my colleagues at Meridian Vets, and my agents Knight Ayton; as well as Parliamentarians Lisa Cameron, Zac Goldsmith, Caroline Lucas, Kerry McCarthy, Sue Hayman, Emma Harper, my contacts at No. 10, and loads more. Also huge thanks to everyone who supports what I do and PupAid; especially the sponsors, celebs, and attendees who make this event such a success.

Here’s to an animal welfare-filled 2018 and Lucy’s Law becoming a reality!

Why not make this your profile pic to show your support for Lucy’s Law? 

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