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A positive step forward in promoting greater health and welfare for puppies and kittens has been made.  DEFRA announced a consultation on the ‘banning of commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens in England’.  If this becomes law, it will ban pet stores, dealers and other outlets from selling puppies and kittens at less than 6 months old (unless they themselves have bred them).

LucyMessage2JPGThe announcement comes after 18 months of campaigning for change, under the title of ‘Lucy’s Law’.  Lucy was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, rescued from a Welsh puppy farm five years ago.  She had been kept in a cage most of her life and was no longer able to have puppies.  Lucy’s hips had fused together, she had a curved spine, bald patches and epilepsy following years of mistreatment.  The campaign has been spearheaded by vet Marc Abraham and Lucy’s new owner, Lisa Garner.  Marc says: “Dogs like Lucy are often kept by breeders to produce litters of puppies, which are then taken from their mothers at four or five weeks old.”  Sadly, Lucy passed away in 2016, however, if Lucy’s Law is implemented then her legacy could mean better protection for breeding mothers and their litters.

A number of studies have shown that source of acquisition can influence an animal’s future behaviour, with dogs purchased from pet stores being prone to various health issues and neuroses as a result of breeding malpractice.

That’s why Lucy’s Law is so important. 

For example, McMillan et al. (2013) analysed over 6,000 dog owner’s responses to understand differences in behaviour between dogs purchased from pet stores and commercial breeding establishments (‘puppy farms’), and those obtained by registered private breeders.  The researchers concluded that purchasing dogs from pet stores versus non-commercial breeders represented a significant risk factor for the development of a wide range of undesirable behavioural characteristics.  Issues documented included: pet store puppies having significantly greater aggression toward human family members, unfamiliar people, and other dogs, greater fear of other dogs and non-social stimuli, as well as greater separation-related problems.

These findings validated an earlier study by McMillan et al. (2011) which investigated over 1,000 dogs sourced from commercial breeding establishments.  The team evidenced significantly higher rates of health problems, rates of fear, house-soiling and compulsive staring, and significantly lower rates of trainability in puppy farmed dogs.

If you’re thinking of getting a dog, make sure you do your homework when it comes to choosing a breeder.  Do ask lots of questions, and be prepared to walk away from the litter if things do not seem ‘right’.  Read our advice on things to consider when choosing a family dog at


McMillan, F., Duffy, D. and Serpell, J. (2011). Mental health of dogs formerly used as ‘breeding stock’ in commercial breeding establishments. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 135(1-2), pp.86-94.
McMillan, F., Serpell, J., Duffy, D., Masaoud, E. and Dohoo, I. (2013). Differences in behavioral characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from non-commercial breeders. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 242(10), pp.1359-1363.


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