Happy New Year folks! And what a year 2018 has been. Last year I signed off with “Here’s to an animal welfare-filled 2018 and Lucy’s Law becoming a reality!” but could never have predicted what would unfold in 2018 – the Chinese Year of the Dog. Just to recap, in 2017 we were all shocked to learn that some of the biggest animal welfare organisations had been caught persuading (successfully) the Government not to ban 3rd party puppy sales, even though the EFRA Select Committee, RSPCA, Kennel Club, and numerous other parliamentarians and ethical organisations, were all calling for the ban. So after almost 10 years of campaigning to end puppy farming and finally ban 3rd party puppy dealers e.g. pet shops, the Lucy’s Law campaign was launched in December 2017 to try and address that situation. For those unfamiliar with Lucy (below), she was a beautiful, brave Cavalier King Charles Spaniel rescued from a puppy farm and rehabilitated by her owner Lisa Garner and they both helped raise awareness of puppy farming and rescue pet adoption. When Lucy finally succumbed to all her puppy farm health issues, and tragically passed away in December 2016, her dedicated ‘Lucy the Rescue Cavalier’ Facebook page was liked by over 70,000 fans, a ready made campaigning army, and the perfect face to base the whole final push for the law change on…
January 2018 started very calmly indeed, with the annual sponsored walk for my local Sussex-based rescue centre Raystede – a shelter within a sanctuary that have also supported Lucy’s Law’s call for a 3rd party ban since before its inception. We set off at one of my favourite spots in Sussex – the Cuckmere Haven – which I urge all dog lovers, or just fans of nature in general, to experience whatever the season. As well as doing my day job vetting, January also saw me busy back in Westminster on my days off as usual. Knowing that new animal welfare licensing regulations would be introduced in October 2018, and with the knowledge that Lucy’s Law was currently being left out of all relevant discussions, and not being considered as part of new laws, made me and my fellow campaigners slightly nervous I’ll admit.
When the apparently impenetrable ‘fortress’ of the UK’s major animal welfare organisations (some of whom we knew were refusing to support Lucy’s Law in favour of keeping puppy dealing legal i.e. licensed), representatives of the pet industry, and government department responsible for animal welfare, are all blatantly ignoring the almighty fanfare that was the Lucy’s Law launch in Westminster in December 2017, you know you’ve some serious work to do. And so after years of trying to go through the ‘correct’ channels and being blocked by some pretty disingenuous behaviour almost every time, I had no choice but to bypass the lot of them, and headed straight to the source of all new legislation, Downing Street.
Getting the right information to the most important people has often been one of the last few years’ hurdles; so a series of meetings at No.10 with various representatives of the Prime Minister’s closest team of advisors meant I could actually share the evidence, take along experts with me (like Julia Carr and Sarah Clover above), and actually have the golden opportunity to explain in great detail – to the actual decision makers of UK law in No.10 – that Lucy’s Law was the essential first step in tackling irresponsible dog breeding i.e. puppy farming and dealing. Post-launch no one could’ve missed support for Lucy’s Law, the immediate ban of puppies sold by commercial dealers, building daily – worldwide in fact – and I can’t thank the Mirror’s brave and committed investigative journalist Andrew Penman enough for his careful documenting the campaign’s progress so brilliantly throughout its whole journey; check out the Mirror’s dedicated Lucy’s Law microsite containing all Andrew’s excellent articles here. Also in January I attended an excellent Ban Live Exports event in Westminster, organised by the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and Stop Live Exports Petition Team (SLEPT), with actor Joanna Lumley, Dr Lisa Cameron MP, and barrister Sarah Clover – another issue I feel very passionate about.
By the time February arrived, and amongst the day jobs of being a vet and visiting local schools to speaking to pupils about about looking after animals, the Lucy’s Law campaign had become so popular, and made so much progress within No.10 that the Government launched what’s called a ‘Call for Evidence’; a consultation, in this case lasting three months, where members of the public, campaigners, and all welfare organisations and charities are invited to submit their views on whether to ban third party sales of puppies, or not. To even achieve this hugely significant milestone was already a victory for our tiny campaigning team, as we’d now changed the existing legislative process that had previously ignored Lucy’s Law’s existence, to one that was now positively considering it – with the Prime Minister’s tweet (below) suggesting the Government were now more supportive, and seemingly well in favour, of banning third party sales than not!
To announce the Government’s Call for Evidence I was truly honoured to be asked to record a piece to camera outside No.10, which you can watch here. Furthermore, our Early Day Motion 695, an official Parliamentary statement that only MPs can add their names in support to, was also building momentum within Westminster, with almost 100 cross-party MPs now calling for Lucy’s Law as well. Good Morning Britain, BBC Radio London, and Talk Radio also generously featured the story, with many celebrities now getting involved and posting their support for Lucy’s Law on social media too. Pressure for Lucy’s Law to happen was quickly escalating both inside and outside Parliament.
In other news the All-party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG) I coordinate in Westminster, and chaired by Dr Lisa Cameron MP, hosted its first meeting of the year discussing ‘Dogs Used in Experiments’; with industry representatives and campaigners/charities engaging in polite dialogue with a few bridges made. February also saw me change jobs as sadly my old practice was bought by a corporate chain, and I always prefer to work for an independent vet clinic.
In March, and with support for Lucy’s Law appearing to grow by the hour, it was now time to pull the trigger on one of campaigning’s golden guns, the Government e-petition, a mechanism that has gained popularity in recent years, everyone signing and sharing well-aware that collecting 100,000 signatures will usually result in a debate in Westminster; and this, the second one on this exact matter I’d been involved with (you may remember our puppies and kittens e-petition and subsequent debate of 2014 which was rejected by the Government after being debated in the Main Chamber of the House of Commons). These debates rarely decide one way of the other if a law will be passed but are a brilliantly useful way of getting an idea of where the Government currently stands on the issue, as well as raising awareness of a campaign, and seeing which MPs, and organisations, are supportive.
So on March 1st we launched the Lucy’s Law Government e-petition to ban third party sales and none of us could’ve ever anticipated its popularity, and more importantly, how fast this would grow. From members of the public to celebrities, Parliamentarians to hugely respected ethical animal welfare organisations such as RSPCA, NAWT, IFAW, HSI, Raystede, and many many more; the Lucy’s Law e-petition was signed and shared by thousands in its first few days. And with Mother’s Day 2018 falling on the Sunday at Crufts, what better way to make even more of an impact than designing a giant Mother’s Day card with Lucy’s face on it (below), as well as give out thousands of bright pink Lucy’s Law rosettes from PupAid’s main sponsor Nutriment’s stand to attract media attention. And attract it did, for the Channel 4 TV crew came over, did a huge feature on the campaign, and it went out to the masses just before Best in Show, basically prime-time viewing for dog-lovers, with Clare Balding ending the feature by urging viewers to sign and share the petition; you can watch it here.
With a final, and huge, petition video push over the line by Countdown’s Rachel Riley on Twitter (watch here), the Lucy’s Law petition smashed 100,000 in just 13 days, making it one of the fastest animal welfare (or otherwise) Government e-petitions of all time. As well as continued support from the Mirror, the Sun also featured the petition success in a centrepage spread, and Lucy’s Law was also now being mentioned in the Welsh Parliament too; word was quickly spreading to the devolved nations. In March I was also pleased to be asked to front a Frontline campaign for flea control involving a giant dog called Titch (below), and was proud to be awarded an ‘Outstanding Commitment’ award by Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare.
With the arrival of April, and with a definite spring in everyone’s step, our Lucy’s Law campaign was now in full swing. To quickly recap, the Government’s ‘Call for Evidence’ three month consultation was still open, almost 100 MPs had now given their official, signed support for the Lucy’s Law Early Day Motion, and we’d also now collected over 120,000 signatures on the Lucy’s Law petition (the extra 20,000 without trying!) so were most likely to get a debate; furthermore most major news outlets and dog-loving celebrities were also now talking about Lucy’s Law and/or the dangers of third party puppy sellers, including popular consumer affairs programme BBC Watchdog.
As well as now vetting at my new independent clinic in Brighton, owned by my dear friend Shaun (who I was replacing as he was off sick), I was also still busy beavering away all over Westminster, in No.10, Portcullis House, and in the Palace on my days off; continuing to garner support for Lucy’s Law’s call to ban third party puppy dealers; the dealers that enable puppy farm cruelty to happen behind closed doors and away from the public, as well as providing the framework for all other ‘motherless’ illegal puppy selling. If introduced Lucy’s Law would mean accountability, transparency, and that anyone considering getting a dog has only two options, to visit the breeder and ask “Where’s mum?” and seeing pup interacting with mum in the place he/she was born, or better still consider adopting from a rescue shelter (where you can also find puppies). 3rd party puppy dealing is essentially impossible to license on animal welfare grounds; essentially the ‘goods’, i.e. pups (and their parents) are damaged way before reaching the seller, so no improvement of the dealer, legal or illegal, can ever prevent this suffering.
Also in April my Westminster APDAWG group also co-hosted a drop-in event for MPs to Ban Shock Collars with MP Tommy Shepherd, joined by two of my best mates, actor and animal welfare campaigner Peter Egan, and TV behaviorist Victoria Stilwell (above), as well as numerous dog-loving Parliamentarians. With so many groups and organisations calling for a ban on electric shock collars, this extra pressure proved successful in the upcoming Government announcement of a ban on their use (not sale). APDAWG also hosted our second meeting of the year on Breed Specific Legislation and Dog Bite Prevention, with guest speakers including Victoria Stilwell, and campaigner, Saveabulls founder, and full time vet nurse Shakira Miles. The Petitions Committee also informed us that Lucy’s Law’s e-petition debate date had now been set for May 21st.
The month of May usually means warmer weather and the start of fun dog show season, so it was an honour to attend one of my favourite charity’s sadly rain-soaked event, All Dogs Matter’s Great Hampstead Bark Off (above). All Dogs Matter have always supported everything I do, also having animal welfare as their main priority, and I love helping to judge their dog shows and support their work. Also in May I met up with the great Ricky Gervais (below) who very generously posed for a pic and joined the many celebs showing their support for Lucy’s Law as well.
The same placard was used for another of APDAWG’s successful, and well-attended, drop-in events for MPs in Westminster, with Lucy’s Law now being mentioned on BBC’s The One Show – publicly endorsed by sofa guests RSPCA and comedian Jon Richardson. As well as BBC One, Lucy’s Law was also featured on ITV’s This Morning when Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford interviewed Dogs Today Magazine editor Beverley Cuddy. Support for Lucy’s Law on mainstream TV, radio, and online was growing, as well as the much anticipated Westminster debate. It was in May that the infamous Lucy’s Law rosettes, last seen at Crufts, resurfaced, with every MP receiving one along with their debate briefing pack notes; and huge thanks to Beverley Cuddy for her tireless work and effort coordinating all the pre-debate activity.
When the Lucy’s Law debate day arrived in Westminster, the petition had already collected over 143,000 signatures, which we proudly handed into No.10 (above), and then our little group of campaigners sat in the public gallery in Westminster Hall and watched in awe, as one of the greatest debates we’d ever witnessed began to unfold. For not only did it start with some MPs wearing their Lucy’s Law rosettes in the chamber (not allowed!), but every single MP (bar one) was calling for Lucy’s Law, including for the first time ever, a positive summing up by DEFRA/Government Minister George Eustice (who gave me a cheeky thumbs-up as he left the chamber), the complete opposite of the first ever e-petition to ban third party puppy sales debate in 2014 which the Government point-blank rejected. Also in May we helped provide evidence and content for a fantastic article and online film by social media giants UNILAD, as well as me appearing as a guest on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff (now the Jeremy Vine Show) talking about animal welfare, Lucy’s Law, and banning electric shock collars.
June started on an extremely sad note as my good friend and vet Shaun (below) passed away from cancer. Shaun was always one of the good guys of vetting, fiercely anti-corporate, kind, compassionate, and always put his patients first. Shaun also did loads for charity, both here and abroad, he treated injured wildlife brought in, and the pets and pet-loving community of Brighton and Hove will miss, and most certainly feel the loss of his exceptional vetting skills, charm, and empathy, for many generations to come.
With the Government’s three month public consultation on Lucy’s Law now closed, the campaign was out of our hands, and we were all now waiting for the responses to be examined by No.10 and a big decision made. In Westminster, as well as more meetings on Lucy’s Law including one very interesting canine welfare meeting with Lisa Cameron MP, Tommy Shepperd MP, DEFRA Minister Lord Gardiner (after which he put on a Lucy’s Law rosette – see below!) and Victoria Stilwell, I also attended the Sale of Fur debate, as well as a unique event to launch the National Military Working Dogs Memorial; a project that I’m particularly interested in, being fascinated by how animals have been (and still are) used in wartime.
Finally in June, and as World Cup fever and a heatwave descended on the nation, I was privileged to be invited to the beautiful city of Tallinn in Estonia for a few days by the Federation of Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA), an organisation representing more than 25,000 companion animal vets in 40 European countries, to give a Lucy’s Law presentation (below) to all the heads of the European veterinary associations. Back home there were even more mentions of Lucy’s Law on the BBC, in the Welsh Parliament, and in popular magazine Closer.
As high temperatures and success of the England football team in Russia gripped the UK, Lucy’s Law was again featured on mainstream TV, this time in depth on the ITV News, Channel 5 News, as well as at a very special event in Cardiff – a unique Lucy’s Law rally organised by PupAid friends C.A.R.I.A.D. and Friends of the Animals Wales, hosted by Assembly Members (Welsh equivalent of MPs in Westminster) Eluned Morgan AM and Vikki Howells AM, and which I was honoured to attend and speak at. The day started with numerous AMs all proudly wearing their Lucy’s Law rosettes and having their pictures taken with some brave puppy farm survivor ex-breeding dogs on the steps of the Senedd, Wales’ ultra-modern Parliament building situated on Cardiff Bay. We then all went inside, and I gave a speech about Lucy’s Law and what progress had been achieved by the campaign so far in Westminster; other speakers included Linda Goodman from C.A.R.I.A.D., Eluned Morgan AM, Vikki Howells AM, and the Welsh Minister who would be responsible for Wales adopting Lucy’s Law, Lesley Griffiths.
It’s always a personal highlight to be asked to speak in any Parliament and this event was no different, especially as for years, Wales’ reputation has been tarnished by the scourge of puppy farming in some of its notorious south western counties e.g. Carmarthenshire, Ceredigionshire, and Pembrokeshire. In other news I was proud to be guest of honour at Just Dogs Live fun dog show in Peterborough where I gave a few talks about keeping your dog healthy, as well as Lucy’s Law; I’ll be back there in 2019 so reserve your tickets here and come say hi!
August 2018 will always be a month I’ll never forget. Classically one of the quietest months in the Westminster calendar, August had a surprise for us all. After the last few months of hard campaigning, unprecedented media exposure, and ultimately waiting for news of Lucy’s Law since the Government’s Call for Evidence consultation was launched back in February, I first knew that NO.10 had now agreed to Lucy’s Law (after a consultation response of 70% with the remaining 30% mostly unsure of how Lucy’s Law would be implemented rather than against it) a few days before the big announcement on August 22nd.
The Government generously emailed me the embargoed draft press release, in which the Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove “paid tribute to the Lucy’s Law campaign”, and asked for my quote which I proudly submitted. I was then asked to put together names for the list of invitees, as Downing Street were going to announce Lucy’s Law at a special garden party, put on especially for the people who made it happen! Now the expression “No words” is often carelessly banded around when describing something monumental, but this was much more than that.
Over one hundred guests made up mostly of campaigners I’d met and closely worked alongside over the years, dog-loving celebs including Brian May and Eamonn Holmes, and even ex-puppy farm breeding dogs all gathered in the garden of No.10 Downing Street; humans served canapes, dogs served dog biscuits; and we all eagerly awaited Mr Gove’s big announcement – the reveal. For in his speech (which you can read the full transcript here and even watch a snippet here), the Secretary of State, as well as announcing a second consultation on how Lucy’s Law will happen, rather than if it will, I was honoured to hear Mr Gove say:
“Now these changes only come about as the result of campaigning. One person who deserves to be singled out is Marc Abraham from Pup Aid. Marc’s pioneering work as a vet, as someone who puts animal welfare at the heart of everything that he does, has been inspirational. And there are people here who have seen Marc in action on the media and in person, and know that he’s a force of nature.”
I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever been prouder. The only thing that made my day sad was the absence of my father, who passed away in April 2016, not being there to experience it all – he always taught me to fight for the underdog, to never give up on something you believe in, and played endless hours of chess with me as a kid which I’m pretty sure had a deciding effect on my campaigning/strategy/playing the long game; he would have loved the garden party and been so proud of what all our little campaigning family had achieved. The rest of my family were present, including my 97 year old Grandma Judy, who escaped the Holocaust on the Kindertransport attended (in wheelchair in below pic), whose inspiring story of survival had taught me that anything is possible, a very useful lesson indeed for a campaigner.
After two hours (which admittedly felt like two minutes) of one of the greatest and most special experiences of my life, the party was over; apart from of course making an impromptu victory speech on leaving from the steps of No.10, recorded by Beverley Cuddy and available to watch here, to a Downing Street packed with friends, family, and of course campaigners (below) – another one of the highlights of my life!
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone associated with organising the event, from the over-friendly staff at No.10 to attending celebs, and making it a day we’ll all remember for a very, very long time. The next day, with the press release now public, it was understandably crazy with me and/or Lucy’s owner Lisa Garner, or just the Lucy’s Law campaign success being celebrated on pretty much every major TV channel from Good Morning Britain to ITV’s This Morning (below), Sky News to BBC News, as well as radio, online, and pretty much every print news outlet as well!
For those of you who follow me, you’ll know that September means PupAid’s fun celeb-judged dog show in Primrose Hill, London, raising awareness of puppy farm cruelty as well as rescue pet adoption; and with August’s amazing news that the Government was now going to bring in Lucy’s Law, this year’s PupAid had a real celebratory feel to it. Not only that but the weather was perfect, we were joined by U.S. visitors and close friends Grace and Steve Herbert from Finding Shelter Animal Rescue in Philadelphia, as well as my buddy TV dog behaviourist Victoria Stilwell. Other celebs in attendance were Countdown’s Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev from Strictly, Hannah Waddingham from Game of Thrones, and longtime PupAid supporters Ricky Gervais and Jane Fallon (pictured with me and Shakira Miles below).
There were so many Lucy’s Law rosettes on show and as the dogs were paraded by their proud owners, the live musicians played, the vegan food was enjoyed, and the paparazzi got hundreds of celeb pics; the thousands of dog lovers who attended were all united by being a part of changing animal welfare for the better – by Lucy’s Law. PupAid isn’t an easy show to put on so I’d like to pay special thanks to my co-organiser, an fellow PupAid director Rebecca Weller, as well as main sponsors Nutriment. Also thanks to our other sponsors, Specsavers, Waggel Pet Insurance, Leivars Design, PetsPyjamas, Leucillin, Brewdog, PR team Borne Media, Belle PR, and Laura, brilliant compere Simon Happily, Halo Dogs for providing the very popular have-a-go agility, Royal Parks, Hearing Dogs for their displays, Britain’s Got Talent’s amazing Lucy and Trip Hazard for their displays, all the stall holders and exhibitors, and everyone else involved in making it one of the best days of the year for animal lovers! For the official pics of this year’s PupAid from our amazing official photographer Julia Claxton click here.
As if that wasn’t enough the Lucy’s Law campaign was named ‘Top [Campaign] of the Month’ in PR Week magazine, the journalist particularly enjoying the fact Lucy’s Law was only eight months old when the Government agreed it, relied on no PR company or press releases, and had no financial resources either; a proper grass roots campaign run by a handful of volunteers. Later that month Lucy’s Law was incredibly honoured to collect, with Lucy’s owner Lisa, the RSPCA’s Animal Heroes Awards‘ Special Award (below) – an award both Lisa and I had won previously on separate occasions! This was a complete surprise to us and we only knew about it when it was announced on the night, so thanks RSPCA for recognising our campaign success.
Meanwhile over in Wales, not only were our friends C.A.R.I.A.D. launching their own Welsh Lucy’s Law e-petition, but we were noticing individual councils in Wales voting for, or as we call it, ‘turning pink’ for Lucy’s Law; with astonishingly three of the most notorious puppy farming regions in Wales, the aforementioned Carmarthenshire, Ceredigionshire, and Pembrokeshire all giving their full support to the campaign first – serious progress was now happening in Wales too!
October continued those happy vibes as I was pleased to support and attend a sunny, autumnal Great Rescue Ramble across Hampstead Heath, on behalf of one of my other favourite rescue charities, the Mayhew. A few days later and I was on a flight to the States for a couple of days chilling (recovering!) in one of my favourite cities in the world NYC, and then up to Pennsylvania to visit Grace and Steve Herbert from Finding Shelter, and in particular check on the progress of another incredibly iconic dog, Victoria the German Shepherd (below). Brave ex-breeding dog Victoria was rescued from a puppy farm (known as a puppy mill in the U.S.) by Grace Herbert, Peter Egan, Victoria Stilwell, and me in 2017 and after we’d taken her straight to the vets her prognosis was very guarded. However over the last year not only has Victoria shown abnormal strengths of healing, bravery, and resilience against all the odds, but Grace and Steve have been raising awareness of puppy mills and rescue dogs with her (look out for the #VictoriasLaw campaign); much like little Lucy when she was alive.
While I was in Philadelphia, I helped judge at my third-in-a-row Finding Shelter’s mini-PupAid fan dog and awareness show Sproutfest, and was honoured to say a few words updating everyone on Lucy’s Law’s progress back in the UK. The next day it was off to the Pennsylvania Capital (Parliament) Building in Harrisburg to speak at a rally inside (pics below), addressing senators, media, and fellow animal welfare advocates; another one of my proudest moments. Later that week I was invited to give a lecture to the Humane Society of United States’ bootcamp on campaigning against puppy mills, a relationship that I’m looking forward to extending this year when I visit Washington in the Spring.
While I was in the States I learnt of some incredibly sad news, as our friend and fellow campaigner Philippa Robinson (below) lost her battle with cancer. Philippa was not only so much fun to be around, but totally committed to improving the lives of the UK’s dogs; after setting up the phenomenal resource Karlton Index in March 2011, Philippa was a major player in the world of canine welfare and her huge personality, determination, and sheer grit to help dogs will be very missed by all who had the privilege of knowing her. Philippa was part of the original Lucy’s Law team long before it was called Lucy’s Law, so it was apt that in October, the campaign was nominated for a prestigious PRCA Public Affairs Award.
Also in October APDAWG hosted our ‘Greyhound Racing Industry and Welfare’ meeting in Westminster, in which representatives of the industry made presentations alongside greyhound welfare campaigners and charities. This was an excellent meeting with progress most definitely made and thanks to all the speakers, especially Trudy from Greyt Exploitations and Winchester University’s Professor Andrew Knight, for their excellent input, and to Lucinda Read from Greyhound Compassion for helping me organise the event. Following that APDAWG meeting, Forever Hounds Trust who were previously on the Greyhound Forum, a collection of welfare bodies designed to monitor the industry, spoke out in favour of a ban and as a result were subsequently thrown out of the forum – good for them for speaking up! This pic is one of my favourites from 2018, Victoria Stilwell, Grace Herbert and me on the Harrisburg Capital Building steps in Pennsylvania before we all spoke inside.
As we approached the end of an eventful year for animal welfare there was really no letup in the campaigning world. Back in the States huge progress was made by campaigners as Florida’s ban on greyhound racing was voted in. I was invited to give a talk on Lucy’s Law at the Institute of Licensing’s annual conference in Stratford-upon-Avon, and then attended the London Vet Show for a couple of days where I attended lectures and was able to catch up with a few organisations I support. Whilst in London I was also proud to support HSI’s #FurFreeBritain campaign before attending the screening of Cats Protection’s Christmas tearjerker online ‘Genie’s Christmas Wish’ animation. A brief APDAWG AGM in Westminster re-elected our fab Chair Lisa Cameron, as well as new Vice Chairs Zac Goldsmith MP, Roger Gale MP, Ross Thomson MP, Andrea Jenkyns MP, Ann Clwyd MP, and Tommy Shepperd MP.
The end of November meant a quick trip to the Scottish Parliament with barrister and friend Sarah Clover to discuss Lucy’s Law with the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP (above), followed by a brief visit to Edinburgh Dogs and Cats Home of which I’m a proud ambassador. November finished on another high as the Lucy’s Law campaign picked up the PRCA Public Affairs ‘Voluntary Sector Campaign of the Year’ Award at a glittering ceremony in London; thanks Newington Communications for your help.
And all of a sudden December arrived and with the now multi-award-winning Lucy’s Law campaign still making progress and headlines, in Wales a fascinating debate took place in the Welsh Parliament – and after a phenomenal speech by Andrew RT Davies AM, the Welsh Minister Lesley Griffiths then positively summed up and announced the date for launching the Welsh Lucy’ Law consultation, 22nd February 2019.
Also in December I attended Cats Protection’s Christmas Parliamentary Reception, hosted APDAWG’s Unsung Heroes event featuring some incredible charities, individuals, and campaigners, with the interview between Peter Egan and Owen and Haatchi the icing on the APDAWG cake (which you can watch here). I was also incredibly proud to award Owen and Haatchi the inaugural ‘Philippa Robinson Award for Dog Welfare’ too (below). We were also hearing from numerous sources including Eileen Jones from Friends of the Animals Wales who spoke at the event, that puppy farmers were now getting rid of their breeding dogs into rescue, proof that Lucy’s Law is working well-before its implementation.
After attending the Mayhew’s launch of three short films highlighting their work with the homeless, the biggest news of the year was about to drop. Another press release arrived in my inbox, again from the Government, and again embargoed. This time the news was simple, after the Government’s second Lucy’s Law consultation (launched in August), the Government were now confirming Lucy’s Law will happen after 95% of responses were in favour of it – we’d done it!
Almost 10 years after treating sick puppy farmed puppies in my consulting room, starting PupAid, visiting Westminster over 300 times, delivering two 100K e-petitions to No.10, meeting some of the most incredible, dedicated, kindest group people I’ve ever known, let alone had the privilege of working alongside – our small gang of fellow committed campaigners, with no money, resources, or background in politics or law, and all with other ‘proper’ jobs; we had worked tirelessly in our spare time to make Lucy’s Law happen against all the odds, especially the resistance encountered by the pet industry in previous years, and disappointingly more recently, by some of the largest and most respected animal welfare organisations in the UK; a huge victory for grass roots campaigners, and more importantly this country’s dogs and cats themselves.
As the news broke the story went viral, reaching all parts of the world from the US to Brazil, Spain to Israel; showing that there’s hope globally for an end to irresponsible dog and cat breeding, selling, and everything in between. I appeared on Sky News on Christmas Day again to share the good news, accompanied by Susan from Forever Hounds Trust and beautiful retired greyhound Ava (below). Also on New Year’s Eve the Welsh Lucy’s Law petition ended by smashing 11,000 signatures and I look forward to handing it into the Senedd with Welsh campaigners and AMs soon! Finally, to end the year on one of its biggest highs, Lucy’s Law has been listed as one of 2018’s top animal welfare wins in the world in the Independent – the perfect accolade to a phenomenal year.
So I hope you’ll agree that 2018 truly was the Year of the Dog – it actually still is until February – our little group of campaigners who’d been fighting for nearly 10 years finally achieved what we set out to do at the start, and we couldn’t be happier! And what about 2019? What’s next in the world of animal welfare? Well we look forward to the UK Government implementing Lucy’s Law in England, the Welsh Parliament embracing Lucy’s Law to make sure both England and Wales become puppy dealer-free, which just leaves Scotland on the UK mainland – whom must now either adopt Lucy’s Law too, or by default, become the puppy dealing capital of the UK, a view feared by many Scottish MPs in Westminster and smaller charities north of the border.
I’m looking forward to working with Humane Society of United States to help them end puppy mill cruelty in America too. And by all means if you see or experience something you don’t like, or feel uncomfortable with, whether its to do with animal welfare e.g. greyhound racing or use of sea mammals in aquatic parks, or not, know there’s always something you can do to help raise awareness about it or even change the law to stop it happening; we did it so you can too!
With so many campaign tools available to everyone nowadays, most of them free to use, from e-petitions to meeting your MP, appropriate use of social media to organising a rally or starting your own campaign – just please don’t just sit there moaning at stuff or getting angry and then ignoring it, that’s far too easy, actually do something constructive about it. In fact it was the American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead that said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
I think you’ll agree that Lucy’s Law has proved that, with bells on, and I hope it’s perhaps inspired you to change something you’re unhappy with too?
Finally, as you can imagine, there are far too many people to thank for their help with this year’s incredible journey, but I must give extra special thanks to Linda Goodman and Sue Davey from C.A.R.I.A.D., Julia Carr from Canine Action UK, Sarah Clover, Lisa Garner, Rebecca Weller, Beverley Cuddy, Eileen Jones, Laura Critchley, Andrew Penman, Dan Davies, Nikki da Costa, Sir John Randall, Victoria Stilwell, Peter Egan, Shakira Miles, Linda Rimington, Earl of Stockton, Ricky Gervais, Jane Fallon, Jonathan Parramint, Rachel Riley, Eamonn Holmes, Brian May, Grace and Steve Herbert, Anne Brummer, Kay Burley, Adam from Our Dogs, Lisa Cameron MP, Zac Goldsmith MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Michael Gove MP, Martyn Day MP, Neil Parish MP, Tommy Shepperd MP, Ann Clwyd MP, Alex Chalk MP, Ross Thomson MP, Kerry McCarthy MP, Rob Flello ex-MP, Paul Monaghan ex-MP, Roger Gale MP, Eluned Morgan AM, Andrew RT Davies AM, Marc Tierney AM, Vikki Howells AM, Lorraine Platt, Owen & Haatchi, Yonni and her Say No To Pet Shop Pups crew, Boycott Dogs For Us, Nutriment dog and cat food, Rebecca Leivars, Jo Amit from Hownd, Angela and Martin Humphery, Animal Advocate, Protect All Wildlife, Animal Watch all on Twitter, Huffington Post team, to everyone who follows me on Facebook and/or Twitter, who’s signed and shred petitions and social media posts, to everyone who’s attended and helped with PupAid over the years – including stallholders and sponsors, and my agents Knight Ayton Management. And an even more extra special thanks to my friends, family, and work colleagues who’ve had to listen to campaign updates for the last 10 years, as well as the staff of Harvester in Brighton (by the Palace Pier) as the table by the fireplace was where I was working from every spare minute in the last 12 months! You can even order your own limited-edition Lucy’s Law rosette (below) here and post a pic of your pet wearing it using the #LucysLaw hashtag.
If you’ve reached the end of this blog then thanks for reading folks, have a happy and healthy New Year, and I’d like to take this opportunity to dedicate this blog to my dear friends who we lost this year and will be so missed, vet Shaun Van Vurren, and campaigner Philippa Robinson; rest in peace guys, the animal welfare world is a much darker place without you, but its future will always be much brighter for all your years of tireless hard work, commitment, and determination to improve the lives of our four-legged friends.