The law, as a whole, has a reputation for slow and conservative change. However, secondary legislation has the advantage of amending current statutes rather than creating new ones and therefore changes to the law can be implemented more quickly and cost-effectively than the creation of a whole new statute. This has happened in the case of The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 otherwise known as ‘Lucy’s Law’. This is a statutory instrument which has amended the 2018 regulations of the same name and was the result of a ten-year grassroots campaign started by Brighton-based veterinary surgeon, Marc Abraham.
Like many vets, Marc regularly had to treat sick puppies and broken breeding dogs produced by the harrowing industry of puppy farming. He had also seen close hand the results of the cruel treatment of a rescued breeding dog called Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who suffered from epilepsy, curved spine, and severe separation anxiety after years of mistreatment at a puppy farm. Inspired to stop this injustice, but with no knowledge of law or politics, Marc started raising awareness with his annual PupAid celebrity-judged dog show, visited Westminster to lobby parliamentarians over 300 times in six years, and launched two government e-petitions to ban commercial third-party puppy sales, in 2013 and 2018. The first attempt was unsuccessful, but the second petition gained support at unprecedented speed and within just thirteen days collected over 100,000 signatures. In response, as well as a successful Westminster Hall debate, setting up the APPG for Dog Welfare (APDAWG), and forcing a Call for Evidence launched in February 2018; on 13th May 2019 draft regulations were laid before the House of Lords. The draft was approved on the 25th June 2019. No impact assessment was needed due to the lower cost of the proposal.
The regulations, which will come into force on 6th April 2020, will make it illegal for pet shops, dealers, and any other commercial (for profit) third-parties to sell puppies or kittens under the age of six months unless they have bred the animals themselves. This law does not in any way affect rescue (non-profit) shelters. There is a window of time between now and April 2020 so that the government can help educate the public about the new laws, as well as giving businesses time to prepare. Also, while imprisonment or fine is the penalty for breach of the regulations, many would argue this is not severe enough. Tougher sentencing for animal cruelty is, of course, another area of law under consideration at the moment, and one that needs our support.
But what about enforcement? When animal saviours like Marc have worked long and hard to create a new law, it can be frustrating when it is not enforced. Clearly we cannot have an unlimited supply of RSPCA or council inspectors but, crucially, as members of the public, we can together become more vigilant; which is why the Lucy’s Law ban is both a lot more cost and resources effective than the alternative, i.e. complex licensing conditions. Lucy’s Law will be enforced aided by whistleblowing public, effectively becoming the country’s daily inspectorate, able to flag issues or problems that can then be investigated by the police, council inspectors, trading standards, and RSPCA. Perhaps, like Tier Im Recht, the Swiss animal protection organisation, we could create a central database of cases of cruelty towards animals, which also lists any action that was taken and sentencing that was handed down. We could then monitor enforcement even more effectively. If it did not take place, why not? This may provide us with more evidential data and ultimately assist in implementing Lucy’s Law further.
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