The new regulations on third party pet purchasing

By November 14, 2018 February 10th, 2022 Wheldon news

New regulations came into force on 1st October 2018 which introduced considerable restrictions and regulations on the third party sale of puppies and kittens in England. These changes were introduced to improve existing animal welfare standards.

The UK government is targeting puppy farms, pet shops and other commercial dealers to ban the sale of puppies and kittens. Anyone who wishes to buy or adopt an animal that is less than six months old will have to visit a registered breeder or an animal rescue centre directly under the new legislation.

The ban on third party pet sales forms part of a series of animal welfare reforms which include:

  • A ban on the sale of underage puppies and kittens
  • Tackling the breeding of dogs and cats with severe genetic disorders
  • Banning licensed sellers from dealing in puppies and kittens under the age of eight weeks
  • Compulsory licensing of anyone who breeds and sells dogs and cats

Why is the ban being introduced?

A campaign known as ‘Lucy’s Law’ sought to ban the sale of puppies by pet shops and other third party commercial dealers. The trade is fed by puppy farms both in the UK and abroad.  

The campaign’s petition attracted 143,000 signatures which triggered a debate in Parliament.  The ban on third party pet purchasing is intended to reduce the frequent health issues and socialisation problems evident in pets which have been raised in poor conditions by breeders driven purely by profit.

The new regulations are to be enforced by local authorities who will be guided in their decision making by reference to various guidance notes published by Defra.  Operating a licensable activity without a licence is a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment and/or a fine. Operating in breach of a licence condition is an offence punishable by a fine.

Similar legislation is proposed to be adopted across Wales and Northern Ireland.

A ban on selling pets aged less than eight weeks comes into effect on 1st October.

Caroline Yates, the CEO of the Mayhew animal welfare charity, feels the ban is:

‘….a great step forward in improving animal welfare standards’

She states:

‘The ban shines a light on the suffering, both physical and psychological, that animals have likely experienced though poor breeding practices and conditions.

These initiatives, together with tighter licensing of people breeding and selling dogs, must continue to have government support, be effectively regulated and enforced if we are to truly end harmful puppy and kitten breeding practices.

This ban will help prevent owners continuously being misled into buying often sickly or underage animals from third party dealers, who have no interest in their welfare. It will bring us closer to putting an end to animal suffering, unnecessary deaths and the all too frequent relinquishment to shelters of these poor animals.‘

The legislation

The new legislation states:

  • Compulsory licensing will be required for anyone with a business in breeding and selling dogs
  • Licenced breeders are prohibited from selling puppies and kittens under 8 weeks of age
  • Licenced breeders must show prospective purchasers the puppy or kitten, along with its biological mother
  • The sale of a puppy or kitten must be completed in the presence of the new owner, thus preventing online sales where the prospective purchaser has not seen the animal first
  • Unhealthy dogs or cats and or those with severe genetic disorders should not be bred
  • Advertisements for the sale of puppies or kittens must comply with strict rules governing their content

Commenting on the new legislation, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

‘A ban on third-party sales will ensure the nation’s much-loved pets get the right start in life. People who have a complete disregard for pet welfare will no longer be able to profit from this miserable trade.’

While the new legislation has been welcomed by animal welfare charities, many representatives feel additional measures are still required in order to ensure the safety and welfare of animals in the UK.

Paula Boyden, veterinary director of Dogs Trust, welcomes the reforms but feels further steps are needed to safeguard the health of pets.

She said:

‘We believe that, to be effective, a ban needs to be supported by some key additional measures, such as regulating rehoming organisations.

These measures will close off potential loopholes and ensure a ban is the success we all want to see.’

The Kennel Club, which organises Crufts dog show, also welcomed the reforms, with Caroline Kisko, the secretary of the Kennel Club, stating:

‘When this policy is implemented it will stop the suffering of many dogs and send a very strong message to puppy buyers that it is never OK to see a puppy in any environment other than the one it was born and raised in, with its mum.’

The government also consulted on plans to increase maximum prison sentences for those found guilty of committing acts of animal cruelty to five years, also recognise animal sentience in domestic law. The consultation closed on 31 January and responses are being considered.